How to exploit a family falling out for the sake of ideology

angry atheism atheism

A number of people are linking to and commenting about a recent story over at Hemant Mehta’s blog, Friendly Atheist, about “The Atheist Daughter of a Notable Christian Apologist.” The apologist is Matt Slick, and the atheist is his daughter Rachael. Essentially, the article is her relatively short life story about growing up with Matt as her Dad, how he taught her what theological terms means and all about the importance of critical thinking, and how she lost her faith after leaving her parents’ home and she no longer speaks to her Dad. This is either going to be an intellectually riveting insight, or it’s going to be an intellectually vapid, classless capitalisation on someone’s family tree and a broken relationship with one of the “bad guys.” Guess which it turned out to be. There are some nuggets of wisdom in the article, although perhaps not of the sort anticipated by the blog’s editor. For example:

Atheists frequently wonder how an otherwise rational Christian can live and die without seeing the light of science, and I believe the answer to this is usually environment. If every friend, authority figure, and informational source in your life constantly repeat the same ideas, it is difficult not to believe they’re onto something. My world was built of “reasonable” Christians — the ones who thought, who questioned, who knew that what they believed was true. In the face of this strength, my own doubts seemed petty.

There’s something to be learned here: But it’s not the idea that cutting young Christians off from sceptical voices is good for faith (and I hasten to add, I am not making the claim that Matt Slick did this, I am merely taking my cue from the claim made in this quote). Isolation, rather than being good for Christian faith as suggested here, is in fact bad for it. The picture Rachael paints is of a world where she (believes that she) was insulated from genuine (i.e. not role played) points of view that are not Christian, and that this is the only way any smart person could possibly remain a Christian. My own experience, however, and that of many others, is that exposure to and regular interaction with people who are hostile to one’s own point of view is healthy. Of course, this has nothing to do with people never “seeing the light of science,” these are two different issues. But there is certainly no hard evidence that attrition rates among Christians with a robust secular (i.e. not sectarian) education are higher than attrition rates among those without one, for example. Mr Mehta, your showpiece (and let’s be honest, that’s how you’re using her) waxes rhetorical about how she was a great theologian as a child – after all, her dad says that she was better than the people at churches where he spoke. And she was taught to think critically. All of this is proclaimed clearly. And yet when it comes to the actual argument that she alleges brought her highly intellectually reinforced faith crashing down, it turns out to be this:

This changed one day during a conversation with my friend Alex. I had a habit of bouncing theological questions off him, and one particular day, I asked him this: If God was absolutely moral, because morality was absolute, and if the nature of “right” and “wrong” surpassed space, time, and existence, and if it was as much a fundamental property of reality as math, then why were some things a sin in the Old Testament but not a sin in the New Testament?

Yes – That’s it! She says that she couldn’t reconcile the idea of objective morality with the idea that requirements in one scenario (Old Testament Israel) don’t apply in another (namely, the New Testament and by extension, her own life). This, we are told is what caused the shift from thinking that Christianity is true to thinking “.” This is truly remarkable. I should add that Rachael does quickly characterise the response to this faith-crushing intellectual bomb: “Everyone had always explained this problem away using the principle that Jesus’ sacrifice meant we wouldn’t have to follow those ancient laws. ?But that wasn’t an answer. In fact, by the very nature of the problem, there was no possible answer that would align with Christianity.” To say that this sells theology short is an understatement of epic proportions. To a Christian who up until now has taken the faith seriously an an intellectual level, holding a view that this faith is robust enough to withstand a bit of light prodding such as this, the solution would have been a bit of light (yes, actually very light) reading on the subject – and there is plenty to be done. This is to say nothing about the rather idiosyncratic view of morality expressed here (comparing moral truths to mathematical truths does not bode well!). And yet this moment of dorm room theology banter lead headlong to this:

I still remember sitting there in my dorm room bunk bed, staring at the cheap plywood desk, and feeling something horrible shift inside me, a vast chasm opening up beneath my identity, and I could only sit there and watch it fall away into darkness.The Bible is not infallible, logic whispered from the depths, and I had no defense against it. If it’s not infallible, you’ve been basing your life’s beliefs on the oral traditions of a Middle Eastern tribe. The Bible lied to you. Everything I was, everything I knew, the structure of my reality, my society, and my sense of self suddenly crumbled away, and I was left naked. I was no longer a Christian. That thought was a punch to the gut, a wave of nausea and terror. Who was I, now, when all this had gone away? What did I know? What did I have to cling to? Where was my comfort? ??I didn’t know it, but I was free.

Dramatise much? You couldn’t answer a much discussed question in theological ethics. You could have added a bit of learning at this point, but instead you make out that your intellectual world has been nuked. The closing statement sums it up better, I think: “I was free.” And that was really the point of this. Here’s my pick for the real culprit, in the next breath:

For a long time I couldn’t have sex with my boyfriend (of over a year by this point) without crippling guilt. I had anxiety that I was going to Hell. I felt like I was standing upon glass, and, though I knew it was safe, every time I glanced down I saw death.

But over time – thanks to the deconversion, that changed. It’s telling that she chose to draw attention to this. Numerous times I have seen people turn away from the faith, not because they became aware of new intellectual reasons to reject it, but because the appeal of remaining in the faith became dulled by the drive to live a life that was not compatible with it (and that number includes “apologists” for atheism).

You see something, you want it. But you have this belief that you shouldn’t do it. So, as is human nature, you rationalise. You re-create the world of truth around you and what you want.

You see something, you want it. But you have this belief that you shouldn’t do it. So, as is human nature, you rationalise. You re-create the world of truth around you and what you want. “Maybe this Christianity thing isn’t true after all…” What changed? The evidence? Nope. The arguments are as good as ever. Your will is what has changed. This is confirmed by the celebratory comment that “Freedom is my God now.” No doubt, and that is what you were pursuing. Christianity hindered you, so bye bye Christianity. As was shown in the study Losing my Religion, and as I commented in a recent podcast about why some reject Christianity, there is a correlation between having sex outside of marriage and giving up one’s religion (usually Christian, in the American context in which the study was carried out). Other factors that correlate with abandoning the faith include drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders and get this – lacking a higher education. But that’s another matter, and of course does not answer questions about the truth or otherwise of atheistic or religious claims. It also makes sense that the time when a young person leaves their parents’ home and out into an environment where a smorgasbord of choices are now available to them is the most likely time that they will walk away. The comments thread at the blog where this story is told is full of the usual and can be paraphrased thus: “Oh, you taught her to THINK? Big mistake Dad, of course she was going to walk away!” Not even close to the mark. It was not critical thinking that sunk this faith. It was desire, as it so often is. The intellectual reason offered is absolutely flimsy, and certainly not offered an intellectually respectable presentation.
But this is not meant as a “look at this bad woman” post. Someone chose to use her story as an example, and that person thus made it open to critique by choosing it as something that was intended to be compelling. The point, Mr Mehta (not Rachael), is that if you want to actually stump up and make the case (i.e. invest some mental energy and try to make a sound argument) that Christians must either accept that they should follow every Old Testament regulation or else give up moral objectivism, then feel free. Scrape together some intellectual respectability, make the argument and show that the responses all fail. Do the heavy lifting. I think you’ve got your work cut out for you as that’s going to be a tough argument to make. In fact I think it’s clearly unsound and not even logically valid. But go ahead. Try. It’s your argument to make, if you think it was a good enough reason for this woman to turn away from Christianity. Or get her to make it for you, instead of simply narrate the fact that she thinks she encountered such an argument. Get her to spell it out and counter the replies (and “things are just different because Jesus died” would never cut it as a responsible representation of the replies). But wheeling out somebody because she’s the daughter of a high-profile Christian apologist who has cut him off and won’t speak to him now that she has found a new life in the freedom of unbelief, as though this somehow makes her argument more credible, is intellectually vacuous and arguably little more than a way of taunting “suck on that, we got your daughter. She won’t talk to yooooou but she talks to us! Where’s that knife, lemme give it a twist.” You’re not drawing on her intellectual case – or indeed any sort of case, you’re simply using her like a hunter showing off a kill (even when he’s not the one who made it – indeed, when it may be a case of the poor creature becoming confused and tangled in a bush!). You are using and exploiting her.
Glenn Peoples

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{ 100 comments… add one }

  • Patrick July 17, 2013, 9:00 pm

    Great thoughts Glenn.

    I read her article last night and I immediately thought “THAT is your reason for giving up on the faith? Old Testament laws and the Christian today? Surely there has to be more to the “deconversion” than that. Her last sentence was very telling and she said more with it than she probably thought: “Freedom is my God now, and I love this one a thousand times more than I ever loved the last one.”

  • John July 17, 2013, 11:30 pm

    Id like to say some things about her article that I would like to hear some responses on if anyone’s keen.
    Rachael mentioned something that I think is very urgent for us Christians to address; guilt and shame!
    Guilt is usually understood in relation to bad behavior (some thing I did), as opposed to shame, where the person feels as the they are a failure as a person (something I am). Psychology has studied the effects of guilt and shame on self efficacy (the belief that I can succeed in my attempts at any particular task), and mastery experiences (actually mastering the task one sets their mind on), concluding that shame impairs one’s sense of self efficacy and mastery over and over again.

    Now the reason this is relevant is because self efficacy relates to anything we believe ourselves to be capable of doing– one might wish to conquer a sin/s in their life (alcoholism may be a good example). If one lacks a sense of self efficacy and mastery experiences at conquering sins successfully, one will soon give up trying. The belief that ‘I cannot win, I am hopeless’ will dominate and a sense of shame soon ensues. After all, how can shame not follow if one believes themselves to be a helpless, hopeless sinner, saved by grace — where nothing good we do is our fault, yet everything bad we do is our fault (seems a tad lopsided to me). A sin nature nobody can beat. Hard to have much hope of success isn’t it? That’s why psychology focuses on strength based approaches in order to implement change rather the shame and fear–because shame and fear reinforce disablement.
    The reason I wanted to raise this is because I’m not sure what I believe atm, unfortunately I’m sitting on the fence re my worldview for the first time in 15 years, but I feel that they way we Christians talk about our failures in sin and our hope for overcoming it is terribly discouraging, debilitating and disabling. Is it any wonder people fall away when they feel like their faith isn’t producing goodness?
    In the past year I have experienced some great success in my life regarding conquering a fairly significant addiction, as well as two long-entrenched bad life habits (without counselling, just sheer determination, self efficacy and self mastery experiences!!). What saddened and angered me was that I did this solely on my own. I didn’t pray for help (if felt discouraged as though my prays for change had fallen on deaf ears for so long), I didn’t ask anybody for help, I knew what needed to be done and I damn-well did it.
    What Ive discovered (self realization moment) was that all the talk about me being ‘just a sinner’ and thus will ‘never be free of sin’ and how I must simply look forward to heaven where sin will be no more was so crushing to me (I wonder if that very thought stopped me from success for many years??). I felt completely unaided by my strong long-term faith and led up the garden path to some extent. I feel a bit ripped off by the Church for not teaching me stuff that empowers me for change and hope and success. Why did I have to go ‘to the world’ for this information!? I find that hurtful. Nowadays I feel hope again. I feel morally strong within myself for once in my life and able to ‘fight giants’ that previously smashed me down for years. I’m not claiming to be free of sin but I’m getting much much better.

    I think we need to have a serious dialogue in Christianity about the way in which we view ourselves and the way in which we talk about failures/abilities because the way we have been is ‘soul’ crushing it’s despairing. I suspect all Christians have a deep abiding sense of shame, how can we not have shame if we believe ‘we can never and never will be free of sin’ and that we are ‘helpless, hopeless sinners saved by grace alone and nothing of ourselves’. ***I am not wishing to start a debate about mechanics of HOW we get saved (of course we are only saved because of God essentially), but somehow in all this I…

  • John July 17, 2013, 11:37 pm

    last comment got cut off…continued…
    somehow in all this I think we need to have a better view of ourselves–that we are made in the image and likness of God despite our sins. If a golfer wants to hit a ball to avoid a tree, he must not focus only on what he wants to miss, he must focus on where he wants to be or else he will inevitably hit the tree. If Rachael felt anything like I did, then its no wonder she feels freedom from shame now. We certainly don’t get that from the church sadly.

  • Quinton July 17, 2013, 11:39 pm

    I would like to hear a response to her question about morality and the old testament. I feel the weight of that question quite unsettling.

  • Jason July 18, 2013, 2:09 am

    Short answer, different contracts.

    Long answer.
    The contract God carved out for the Jews to obey did include moral laws (like don’t murder), they also included social mores like purity laws (don’t mix fibres in your garments, clean and unclean foods and the like, to mark them as distinct from other peoples), and also social mores based on moral laws (like putting a wall around your rooftop so you aren’t guilty of the death of someone falling off it (roofs were used like balconies for us today)). They had to abide by every part of the contract in order to honour their Patron who had made the contract with them.

    The contract with the Church, brokered through Jesus, is a different contract. We have similar moral laws, but we don’t have the same social laws (although I hope we still put barriers around our balconies in order to avoid people falling to their deaths). As the Jerusalem Church decided, the responsibilities of the Jews were not those of the Gentiles, so they laid on them only what we often call the Noahide laws, which in tradition were those laws given to Noah and binding on all men everywhere.

    John, haven’t you read the verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”? Or, “what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him but a little lower than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honour.” Certainly we are fallen from that high estate that our first parents had, but then, should we have encountered them in their innocence and glory we may well have been tempted to worship them.

    To be a human being is a glorious thing, but knowing we are far from that once perfect state should bring humility. C.S. Lewis had his Aslan character say to a Caspian who was not sure of his worthiness to rule, “You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”

  • Chris Van Allsburg July 18, 2013, 2:15 am

    Bravo Glenn! I love the challenge you bring Mehta to task. Maybe he’ll fess up to his game and meet the challenge. A friendly atheist would.

  • Alan Rhoda July 18, 2013, 2:19 am

    Quinton, here’s a few brief thoughts that may help.
    1. God is perfectly good by nature, so *fundamental* morality, which is grounded in God’s nature, cannot change.
    2. But *within* the constraints of God’s nature, God can *will* further *contingent* specifications as to what’s right or wrong. This is the case with the ceremonial aspects of OT law (e.g., don’t eat pork) as well as with the types of civil punishments that were decreed for various sins (e.g., adulterers should be stoned). These specifications are not part of timeless morality because they are contingent. So they can be *changed* in the NT without compromising the moral law or God’s nature.
    3. Here’s an analogy. All developed nations have laws about which side of the road cars should drive on. Arguably, it is a moral necessity that there be *some* convention in place to that effect given the widespread use of cars, otherwise there would be a lot of unnecessary chaos on the roads. But it is not necessary in any sense that cars drive on the right, or that they drive on the left. So if a nation decides at some point to *change* the rules as to which side of the road cars drive on, it is free to do so (though as a practical matter this could prove very difficult).
    4. Similarly, to take the OT dietary laws for example, since we are morally obligated to do what a morally perfect God commands, if God commands us not to eat pork, then we are morally obligated not to do so. But since *that* command isn’t grounded in God’s nature, but in a contingent declaration of God’s will, God is free to change it if and when He chooses. So, in the NT, when God declares to Peter that such foods are now “clean” (Acts 10:15), the ceremonial law is lifted. Since that law was a contingent law to begin with, its abrogation by God does not entail any change in the fundamental or necessary moral law grounded in God’s nature.

    I hope that helps!

    Alan

  • Beshawn July 18, 2013, 3:19 am

    I like your article, but I do also think it is important to specifically point out – legalism leaves no room for desire. That is the problem. One’s heart and affections are shut up in the dungeon of “to dos” and “duty”. No wonder she ran away from it! John Newton captures the change from legalism true Christianity beautifully: ‘Our pleasure and our duty, Though opposite before, Since we have seen His beauty. Are joined to part no more.’ In other words, duty and desire become joined. We do not have to suppress our desires –we can open them up before the Lord and have them transformed. We do not have to drudgingly do our ‘duty’ without feeling. We can have our feelings transformed until they delight to do ‘duty’. We get a new heart. This is the difference between legalism and gospel. I don’t know if that was ever presented to this Rachael woman.

    I think the occasion of the friendly athiest article gives Christians a wonderful opportunity to to point out –both to churched and nonchurched alike – the differences between legalism and true Christianity. (ie – legalism imitates Christianity, looks like Christianity, talks like Christianity, but it is emphatically not Christianity; is a belief system unto itself – full of hypocrisy, moralism, unhealthy guilt and all the stuff Jesus actually lambastes)

    As I said, it sounds very much like this woman was subjected to years of ‘legalism’, not gospel. And for that, she has my deepest sympathy.

  • Beshawn July 18, 2013, 3:24 am

    Also…my sympathy extends to John (commenter) on this site. I hear and understand your struggle and agree with you that church too often is a place of moralism and condemnation, rather than gospel and freedom in Christ.

    See Tim Keller resources for some good resources on this. Also…keep seeking in your area a church that is gospel centered — and don’t stop till you find it! :)

  • Sam Harper July 18, 2013, 3:58 am

    I had the exact same reaction you had after reading the article.

  • Retha Faurie July 18, 2013, 7:28 am

    Beshawn, I think you are right about legalism. Also remember that people commonly associate God with their fathers – there have been studies that atheists tend to, more commonly than believers, have a bad relationship with their fathers.

    Here is another thing Rachael said about her father last year, 15 May:

    [My father is] insane, anti-woman, sexist, and only employs those who think like him…
    I remember crying at night, asking God why he hadn’t let me be born a boy. Or speaking very negatively to other women and feeling disgust at anything feminine. Or trying my hardest to be as masculine as possible. Because women were weak and not to be treated with respect.
    (From comment #42 15 May 7:31 am, here: http://strivetoenter.com/wim/2012/02/24/stubble-straw-and-scarecrows-diane-sellner/ )

    If she believed God thinks like her father, she never met the God who loves her…

  • matt July 18, 2013, 9:30 am

    I think the issue John brings up highlights the problems with Mehta’s article. Greater insight is possible from the religious side of the fence. We can see that perhaps Rachael was given a sophisticated form of Christianity, but one that was missing an experiential dimension or might not have been as sophisticated in some areas. Perhaps she knew the moral argument very well, but was given an otherwise undeveloped form of practical morality (i.e. ‘what does the Bible say about such and such? ok, do that thing but don’t do this other thing.’). At any rate, we can ask these questions, but Mehta seems to want to present all of these dysfunctions as essential aspects of religion. The Christian can ask questions about what led to this outcome, but for Mehta it’s just another exhibit of how much it sucks to grow up in a Christian home or whatever (actual figures may vary…).

    I do think a more charitable reading of his article would take into account that it seems to be for an atheist audience. It’s a kind of Reader’s Digest sob story that appeals to the solidarity of his readership. It plays like an episode of Oprah. In that light, it might be too harsh to hold it to the intellectual standards that you do here, Glenn (although my charitable reading just makes it sound worse).

    Quinton, there seems to be a number of ways out of that problem that she raised that have no effect on the existence of God or the truth of Christianity. The easiest is that the Old Testament is not without error (the Israelites were mistaken in thinking that the laws came from God). Another would be to take more factors into account, for instance, that the laws were imbued with divine authority for practical or literary reasons (i.e. that there’s no error, but some fiction). Probably the best resolution, I think, has already been given. That is to distinguish between laws that are universal (things that God cannot fail to command, if we take the Divine Command approach) and laws that are contingent (laws that were given to the Israelites that related to their geographical and historical location, rules that set them apart from their neighbors and the like, or for a modern example, traffic laws which are necessitated by the existence of cars and roads but not necessarily existent). It seems fairly clear that God could have good reasons for commanding that the Israelites do certain things at a particular time that could later be revised or dismissed.

  • Quinton July 18, 2013, 12:19 pm

    Thanks Beshawn, Alan and Matt for your ideas. In response, I suppose the thing that troubles me about contingent rules (as separate from moral values which are grounded in God’s nature) is that they seem rather arbitrary, and more so because the consequences for disobeying such arbitrary rules were very harsh and unforgiving, even violent. It doesn’t seem to resemble Jesus very much, nor square with compassion. I find that unsettling still, and not really sure what the solution is…
    Keeping the distinction between moral ontology (that moral values are objective) and moral epistemology, I wondering how useful it is to even say that moral values are objective if in fact we simply do not know all the particulars of what constitutes objective moral values (ie. what they all are). It seem that the Atheist and the Theist are actually in the same boat in a sense, the Atheist cannot ground his values thus is capable of justifying anything (even atrocities), yet the theist cannot expound all the objective moral values because he does not know what they all are, thus he too could end up justifying almost anything (even atrocities) by using the over-ruling trump card ‘God commanded it’. That’s a problem I suspect.

    Re divine command idea of ethics, I feel rather discouraged for the following reasons; divine command would require God speak on all (or at least most ethical dilemmas) so that we can know *what* we ought to do in almost all situations. But the bible is silent on many such dilemmas. Secondly, its clear that there are competing goods in life, more often its a choice of whats ‘good’ and whats ‘better rather than whats ‘good’ and whats ‘bad’. I feel scripture doesn’t enlighten me much on this. I find that a bit perplexing. I suppose we just have to rely on our own reasoning capabilities in such cases to discern the ‘best’?? (I suppose I find virtue theories of ethics offer a bit more hope for success despite their disadvantages).

    Matt, I suspect you’re right about the Israelites simply being mistaken at interpreting certain norms as divine commands, or at least embellishing the stories and commands, but then I cant help but wonder if they did this, how can I trust the words in the bible are actually from God rather than a bronze age tribe? Im working hard to try and hold onto faith but I really need a solid reason to grab hold of to help me up a bit here.

  • matt July 18, 2013, 3:08 pm

    Hi, Quinton,

    I wouldn’t actually choose the embellishment option myself. I prefer the analogy to traffic laws. Certain situations necessitate rules contingent to those situations. We are simply too far away from the Ancient Near East zeitgeist to understand a good portion of those contingent rules. Those rules do play into later elements of the Old Testament narrative, so they’re important to understanding the milieu in which Christ emerged but not worth getting hung up about. Of course, you’re right, the punishments seem harsh, but what will the world think of our laws 3000 years from now (some of which we may have good reasons for)?

    Secondly, what does it matter if the words are from a bronze age tribe? What we have in the Old Testament is a picture of the culture into which Christ came. We need to ask why the Bible exists, what is it for? If it’s for being a Divine dictation, then you’re right, this all does pose a problem. That seems to me to miss the whole point of the document, why it was assembled.

    As for Divine Command Theory, I am a Christian but I don’t subscribe to the ol’ DCT, so yea. If it doesn’t seem to square to you then there are other options (Natural Law being the most immediate runner-up). It’s worth pointing out, though, that you don’t quite characterize DCT correctly. It’s not necessary that God put a list out of His commands for everyone to see (you say, “divine command would require God speak on all… so that we can know what we ought to do…”). Rather, it’s a theory of the ground of morality. When God creates human beings, there are certain things he, because of His nature and theirs, cannot fail to command for them. This might be analogous to creating human beings in the first place. Certainly, when God says, “let there be human beings!” He is also bringing into being a whole set of circumstances that make it possible for the existence of human beings. Perhaps it would be nice if He spelled it out for us, but I see no reason why He should and I’m quite glad that He doesn’t. He’s not, as the late Hitchens would say, some sort of cosmic dictator.

    Now, I think that the ‘his nature and theirs’ part is quite important, which is why I’m more inclined toward Natural Law, but that’s an entirely different discussion.

    I hope that my tone sounds nothing but kind, if I’m terse here and there I don’t mean to be.

  • Alan Rhoda July 18, 2013, 3:24 pm

    Dear Quinton,

    Contingent moral rules could be, but need not be, arbitrary. And even if some are arbitrary, it’s not clear that they are so in an objectionable way. In the first place, all moral rules, whether necessary or contingent, are constrained by God’s perfectly loving nature. In the second place, contingent moral rules are commanded by God for particular reasons. We may not always know what those reasons are, but even when God doesn’t tell us we can often surmise a plausible rationale. In the third place, whatever arbitrariness remains only comes into place *after* God’s nature and the reasons that inform God’s contingent commands have had their say. I really don’t see why such highly constrained “arbitrariness” should be objectionable. It’s arbitrary for a nation to say that cars should drive on the right rather than the left, or vice-versa, but it’s still quite reasonable.

    As for the sometimes harsh punishments, I suspect that a close analysis of both the Hebrew text and ancient Jewish culture would show that they are not, in fact, as harsh as they seem to us now. I haven’t myself done the kind of homework necessary to establish this supposition, but just yesterday I listened to a very interesting talk by Paul Copan, who has done the homework. The talk was based on his recent book, “Is God a Moral Monster?” (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0801072751/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER). I haven’t read the book yet, but from the portion of the talk I heard and a glance through the table of contents, I think Copan’s book would give you a lot to chew on.

    On the moral epistemology point, you seem to be thinking of a *much* more radical divine command view of ethics than I would endorse. I, for one, certainly do not think that what would otherwise be moral atrocities could be justified simply because “God commanded it”. Given God’s moral perfect nature it is *impossible* for God to command a moral atrocity. Divine commands cannot turn something *wrong* into something obligatory. They can only turn something *optional* into something obligatory.

    Moral epistemology does not require that anyone know *all* the objective moral values. All that is necessary is that we know the *fundamental* moral values–and, very arguably, we do. Principles like the Golden Rule, for example, are multiply attested by conscience (or moral intuition), reason (e.g., Kant’s categorical imperative), human experience, and Scripture.

    Recognizing a legitimate moral role for divine commands does not amount to saying that divine commands constitute a total moral theory. Given God’s inherent goodness, they can’t. Hence, we do not “require God speak on all (or at least most ethical dilemmas).” Before we even become aware of God’s commands in Scripture, we already have access to a great body of moral knowledge from conscience, reason, and experience.

    Anyway, I hope this follow-up helps clear some things up.

    God bless,
    Alan

  • James July 19, 2013, 6:34 am

    Another pattern that I see all too frequently is that when people lose their faith in Christ, they go to the entirely opposite end of the spectrum to atheism. I don’t really understand why. Just because one doesn’t believe the Bible to be true doesn’t mean one can’t embrace deism or some generic form of theism that posits an unknown god.

    How is it that when one believes the Bible is false that suddenly, all arguments for any deity go out the window ?

  • Alan Rhoda July 19, 2013, 2:39 pm

    James: Another pattern that I see all too frequently is that when people lose their faith in Christ, they go to the entirely opposite end of the spectrum to atheism. I don’t really understand why.

    Excellent question, James. I’ve wondered about that myself. To move straight from “The Bible is unreliable” to “There is no God” is plainly “a non sequitur of mind-numbing grossness” (to quote something philosopher Peter Strawson once said in reference to Kant). There are clearly at least two important theoretical stopping points between Christianity (or, more generally, Biblical theism) and atheism: (1) generic theism and (2) agnosticism. Yet many atheists, including Rachael, seem to skip over one or both of those intermediate positions as those they weren’t there. I can only surmise that either (a) a fuller line of reasoning that excluded the intermediate positions was in fact followed by the atheist but not reported when recounting the conversion to atheism, or (b) the person’s move from Christianity to atheism was far from a fully rational process–that, in other words, deep down they already *wanted* atheism to be true and just needed an argumentative fig leaf to cover their retreat from Christianity. I suspect that (b) is more often the case than (a).

  • Glenn July 19, 2013, 6:28 pm

    I agree, it’s a brilliant question. If someone thought that conservative, Evangelical Christianity was true and well armed with good grounds, coming to doubt its view on ethics would surely lead (absent other good arguments against all the other elements of the Christian faith) to some sort of heretical Christianity.

    It only fuels the thought that this wasn’t about evidence, but an excuse to jump ship entirely.

  • Givemhell July 20, 2013, 12:27 am

    Please pray for Matt Slick. Anyone who listens to his podcast that is available on his website carm.org knows that he is really going through serious hardships in many different areas of his life and I’m sure that this public “knife-twisting” from his own daughter hasn’t helped.

    Please pray for Raychel, that she would accept the fact that her desire to sin does not justify her behavior and that she would repent of her sin and place her faith in Christ.

    Even with a strong education in the christian faith and an apologist father (that she could have reached out to for answers if it were her desire), Raychel chose her sin over God. In her own words: “Freedom is my God now.” She turned her sin into an idol. Her desire for the freedom to live a life of sin (which is no kind of freedom at all) overwhelmed her education and even her family bond.

    Remember what Christ Himself said: Luke 12:

    49 “I [y]have come to cast fire upon the earth; and [z]how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to [aa]undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! 51 Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; 52 for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

    Raychel is not the first person to “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” and replace God with an idol and she won’t be the last. Does anyone see the connection between her idolatry and the idolatry described in Romans 1?

    “18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth [l]in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident [m]within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not [n]honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and [o]crawling creatures.

    24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for [p]a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed [q]forever. Amen.

    26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is [r]unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing [s]indecent acts and receiving in [t]their own persons the due penalty of their error.

    28 And just as they did not see fit [u]to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, [v]haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”

  • Quinton July 22, 2013, 2:34 am

    Cheers guys, Ill keep thinking about these issues.

  • Lion IRC July 22, 2013, 7:27 am

    I didn’t see Rachael’s vow to never return to a relationship with God – her heavenly Father.
    Where was that Hemant?

  • banana July 22, 2013, 3:54 pm

    “Freedom is my god.” Cute. Given atheism, then, she worships a false god. There is no freedom in atheism. There is only a deterministic dance of atoms swirling in her head. No one thinks of these implications, though. No atheist really puts their money where their mouth is.

  • Blake Reas July 23, 2013, 12:35 am

    I have always found it fascinating about the “deconversion” therefore atheism phenomenon. Maybe it is because of the way issues are framed, and people do no really now much about alternative worldviews. If I ever were to deconvert atheism would be the very last resort.

  • Alien & Stranger July 23, 2013, 3:44 am

    I found the link to this post in Wintery Knight’s blog. As the mother of an apostate son, I observed a similar process occurring in him as happened in Rachel. During my one son’s final year of school, I knew he was wrestling with some issues, which he didn’t discuss with me, and couldn’t discuss with his father (an atheist, so I had done all the spiritual and moral training). After our son went away to university, he was exposed to more sceptical rationalising and sophistry (he’d already had some exposure at his school). He came home at the end of his first year and told me he was now a rational materialist. Of course I was devastated. He also stated, “I feel so free!” I subsequently learned that this was not just freedom from condemnation (i.e. that he’d felt he couldn’t measure up) but that he’d given in to temptation to have sexual relations. His freedom was the jettisoning of his conscience and all the values with which I’d raised him, in favour of licence to do his own thing. He soon became anti-theist, swallowing the spurious arguments of Dawkins & co. to justify rejecting God. At the time that my son turned away from God, I was only then gaining a fuller understanding of God’s grace, so I know I had probably not communicated this very well before my son left home, although I had done my best to exercise grace. (I came to know the Lord when my son was 7 years old, and the Lord had to deal with a lot of baggage in my life from a childhood dysfunctional home background).
    I see in Rachel Slick’s story another young person who was raised to know what is right and wrong, true and false, as well as the reasons for this, but she never had a full revelation and experience of the love and grace of God. Although I had taught my sons the Gospel and about forgiveness for one’s sins, somehow (perhaps because parents tend to set behavioural and other expectations for their children to aspire to) the grace aspect got over-shadowed. One book I wish I had bought when my children were young, but I didn’t have the money, was Jeff van Vonderen’s “Families where grace is in place.” Now I just have to pray and trust that the Lord will bring the prodigal back to himself. I pray this also for Rachel Slick.

  • Bob Seidensticker July 23, 2013, 4:47 am

    “It was not critical thinking that sunk this faith. It was desire, as it so often is.”

    You dismiss her logic as dorm room banter, but she makes clear that she’s very, very well trained in these questions. When someone that serious about Christianity concludes that it’s bunk, I don’t think you can dismiss it so easily.

  • banana July 23, 2013, 6:04 am

    It doesn’t matter how well-trained someone is if they reject or accept something for irrational reasons. Her “deal breaking” query seemed to be nothing but an excuse; otherwise she’d have found an answer very easily. That question is not a cornerstone of Christian faith, either. If her worldview really hinged on such a nonissue then it would not have been broken so easily. Something else was at work.

  • Quinton July 23, 2013, 11:39 am

    I find it interesting, perhaps troubling that when a person falls away, immediately the christian response is ‘its due to sin and evil desire that they stopped believing’ rather than any intellectual troubles which coincided with any behaviors. Its very hard to ‘argue’ with a person who claims that the only possible reason for a person falling away is sin and nothing else…you certainly cannot ‘win’ such an argument because no matter what you say you will be ‘wrong’ as ‘we all know sin is the only reason people fall away’. Do you see what I mean? Id say that poor young Slick girl got the fright of her life when she saw her worldview falling apart. Its not pleasant, have you ever been there before? Its the most unnerving, gut wrenching, frightening thing to think you’ve been mistaken about something so serious whilst knowing that death is coming one day. I do find it odd that she went straight to atheism not deism, but that could be more to do with her legalistic upbringing by the sound of it.
    Finally. I’ll throw in a quick point from behavioral science, the human being is a social creature (I think we seriously underestimate this btw), you might be surprised to know how many of our beliefs and behaviors are shaped predominantly by our social group and the need to belong to whatever group we subconsciously deem valuable to our identity. So when a person is not conforming to a certain group’s expected beliefs and behaviors, suddenly the desire to hold onto expected those things for sociological reasons begins to weaken and the person begins to see themselves as ‘outside’ the group. In one sense they can question their beliefs a bit more objectively since they are no longer remaining part of the group for their own sense of identity and group membership–the sociological factors that drive belonging have lost their hold and they can question more freely without fear of social/group membership/identity repercussions (perhaps that’s why Paul urges Christians to stay in church because it strengthens faith). Just a thought. ;)

  • bobmo July 23, 2013, 12:20 pm

    I asked Rachael (via Twitter) if she plans to write an intellectual critique of Christianity (or Theism) and her reply was, “Yes, I do. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that people want me to write stuff, and then take me seriously.”

    I’m somewhat skeptical that she will ever write such a treatise (what could she possibly say?) but if she does, I’m sure it will make for fascinating reading.

    To those who are saying that we shouldn’t so quickly dismiss her claims of intellectual fraud in Christianity, all one needs to do is examine the reason she gave. Glenn is right on the money.

  • firstbateyboy July 23, 2013, 12:41 pm

    Thanks to all for your honest thoughts.

    I have a cousin who has supposedly “found freedom” and left his Christian faith while at university, so this is very relevant to me. Especially relevant because of his change at the same time regarding sexual preferences.

    After reading all the comments on this blog, how do I reconcile these ideas with the ideas many are struggling with?

    My first response when I read Glenn Peoples blog was the words of Jesus: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. ” Mat 5:17

    My second response to Matt and Raychel is “Dont throw the baby out with the dirty bath water!” (sorry, I cant find a verse reference for this – lol!)

    Also, Jesus words come to mind when He said the greatest commandment that is the basis of all the laws is this: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” Mar 12:30-31.

    I understand this sums up the law and the prophets.

    Jesus teaching in the sermon on the Mount was intended to more fully fulfil the law than the best rule keeping. Jesus taught more than “dont murder” but instead dont be angry: “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment… Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift….. ” Mat 5:20-24

    So Matt and Raychel – please be reconciled.

    Is sexual behaviour relevant? Sure is… a couple of verses later:

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell…. ” Mat 5:27-32

    Woah! Thats much stricter than the law!

    Jesus teaching here and in many more examples more FULLY UPHOLDS the intent of the law than our best rule keeping.

    Following the law can never even get **close** to fulfilling the law. As Paul says “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, ” Rom 3:23

    Then the thoughts of Paul regarding following the law (esp. circumcision law and the gospel) come to mind. Most of the book of Romans is about the issue of law and grace… worth reading again.

    Also Paul shares relevant concepts: “Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. ” Rom…

  • Tucker July 24, 2013, 2:18 pm

    If I ever were to deconvert atheism would be the very last resort.

    These are great comments; I strongly agree. Islam and Mormonism, for instance, hold a lot more appeal to me – emotionally *and* intellectually – than any kind of atheism.

    When someone that serious about Christianity concludes that it’s bunk, I don’t think you can dismiss it so easily.

    and

    Its very hard to ‘argue’ with a person who claims that the only possible reason for a person falling away is sin and nothing else

    What you’re both saying sounds reasonable, on the face of it. But when you’ve seen a million and one of these cases unfold in exactly the same way, and when you’ve got an understanding of the psychological way human beings really work, it’s hard to give the benefit of the doubt. You mention behavioural science, Quinton, and it looks like you already grasp that humans do many, many things for unconscious reasons which they then rationalize. This includes deconverting from Christian faith.

  • Ryan July 25, 2013, 6:17 am

    I’m struck by how often you downplay Rachael’s agency and intellectual capacity. You suggest throughout that she is slave to her desires, implying that her claims of rational disagreement are disingenuous, and finally you say that the whole post is really just a tool Mr. Mehta is using to further his own aims. Is it not possible that Rachael wanted to say something of her own volition? While you might disagree with what she has to say–you might even think what she says is deeply wrong or even silly–is it not possible that she might be being honest? Even if you think her conclusions are erroneous, people can genuinely reach erroneous conclusions without intentionally lying to themselves or others. You presume quite a lot of knowledge about her, her innermost desires, and her psyche in attacking her reasons for writing what she did. You further demean her by saying that she is only a pawn of Mr. Mehta’s, anyway. I think both of those are unnecessarily insulting, and should be dialed back.

    You further assume that the point of that post was to argue the rationality of Christianity. It seems pretty clear from the writing style that this was a personal narrative. It is a personal retelling of a story. It thus fronts her own message, and her own thoughts. Whether Christianity as a religion is objectively false or not is completely ancillary to her story, so it would make no sense to go on some long theological diatribe about the supposed failings of Christian morality. She tells us what happened to her from her perspective. Yes, of course, she is encouraging her readers to take from that a certain message, one you disagree with, but it would be textually incoherent of her to provide a detailed philosophical argument in that particular piece, and it would be inane of you to suggest that she should. You don’t, however, do that. You do something quite worse than that. You say that it is not her but Mr. Mehta who has the responsibility of providing the intellectual argument, as if it weren’t really Rachael’s argument at all.

  • Glenn July 25, 2013, 7:46 am

    “You say that it is not her but Mr. Mehta who has the responsibility of providing the intellectual argument, as if it weren’t really Rachael’s argument at all.”

    Correct. I have assumed that Mr Mehta, and not Rachel, is responsible for what appears at his blog. I say that he is merely using Rachel and exploiting her family situation, that he apparently thinks this is intellectually respectable on account of her offering an explanation of an argument for why abandoning the faith was justified, but that really this argument is flimsy and it was not the real reason for leaving. Mr Mehta should use more intellectually respectable means of promoting his cause.

  • Ryan July 25, 2013, 9:04 am

    No, you have assumed that Mr. Mehta is responsible for modifying the post of a guest writer. Instead of allowing her narrative to be what it is, critiquing it on its own terms even, you suggest that her personal story is invalid unless it includes some philosophical treatise and then suggest that Mr. Mehta, and not the original author, should have provided it.

  • Glenn July 25, 2013, 9:28 am

    “No, you have assumed that Mr. Mehta is responsible for modifying the post of a guest writer.”

    No, this is false. I have not suggested that Mr Mehta changed the content of the guest post. I said that he is responsible for the posts that appear at is blog. It’s his call whether or not they are published.

    If this was a mis-type, and you meant that I think Mr Mehta has a responsibility to alter guest posts if they are not intellectually defensible arguments, then this is also false. I suggested nothing of the sort, but instead said that Mr Mehta is using someone’s bad argument, and that either 1) Rachel should have offered something more credible, or alternatively, 2) Mr Mehta should have made the argument himself, but as things stand, there’s nothing intellectually respectable here, and Mr Mehta is just using somebody because of her family connections and not at all because anything she says constitutes a sensible reason to consider leaving the faith.

    As for the rest, I can only recap the facts. I identified the way in which Mr Mehta is using his guest, I pointed out that on its own terms, her supplied reason for giving up the faith is not credible, and I identified a part of the narrative offered by the guest herself (on her own terms) as a more plausible candidate for the reason for the abandonment of the faith.

    Ryan, if you have a criticism to make of any of the claims I made, I welcome them, but it will do no good simply continuing to complain that I have made them. I did. I understand this irked you, but that’s not enough to provide a basis for continuing to say so. Do you have an argument to make here? If so, let’s hear it.

  • Ryan July 25, 2013, 11:09 am

    I’m sorry to intrude, and I’ll go away now, since I’d rather not touch these arguments with a 10-foot pole. I was responding only to what I saw as ad hominem attacks that I thought detracted from what could have otherwise been stronger, fairer criticism.

  • Glenn July 25, 2013, 1:14 pm

    Ryan, an “ad hominem attack” is where a person dismisses somebody’s argument ebcause of some feature of the person.

    In this case, that is not what happened. I claimed that the argument was weak on its own, and I alluded to the fact that there is plenty of decent literature explaining why. You might call that an appeal to authority, but as it turns out, I regard myself as an authority on the theological and moral question of the discontinuity between the Old and the New Testament (it was the subject of my MTheol dissertation), and that is my considered judgement.

    If you think that my suggestion that moral, rather than rational forces were really driving this de-conversion is an “ad hominem attack,” then I think you’re mistaken about what an ad hominem attack really is.

    And if you think it’s an ad hominem attack to say that really Mr Mehta should either make the argument himself or have a guest make a decent argument, but that in effect he’s just exploiting a situation in the manner I described – Well it’s not. This is a claim that the tactics that Mr Mehmet has used are not intellectually respectable. I could be right, I could be wrong, but it’s not an ad hominem attack.

    So I’m a bit in the dark about this ad hominem attack you speak of.

  • Brian July 26, 2013, 8:22 am

    Three quotes come to mind:

    McCaulay Culkin’s words in Home Alone:
    “I made my family disappear…? I MADE MY FAMILY DISAPPEAR!”

    Oscar Wildes words in De Profundis:
    “Terrible as was what the world did to me, what I did to myself was far more terrible still.”

    And finally Jesus (Matthew 10:39)
    “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it…”

  • MLL July 28, 2013, 7:31 pm

    Somehow I’m always surprised to see how hateful fundie Christians can be. You just can’t let her be herself and choose her own path. She’s not trying to convince anyone, she’s sharing her story with people she identifies with. If that’s threatening to you, you need to revise your beliefs.
    First on the list: remember that who love thing Jesus talked about?

  • Glenn July 28, 2013, 8:51 pm

    Hateful… good heavens. you deserve an Oscar.
    Threatening me? Good night…

    This was an example of a prominent anti-religious blogger exploiting a family situation, using a young woman as though she was somehow a scalp or a trophy, and putting her story and her rationale for leaving on display (presumably to be read by others and even critiqued). That was classless. I pointed this out, explained that the intellectual reason she offered was pretty vacuous, offered a more plausible explanation for the change, and called on the blogger to be more respectable in his efforts.

    MLL, if that threatens you…. [etc, psychological projection and so on]

  • Jeff July 29, 2013, 1:59 am

    Interesting. So many of the ideas presented are mutually exclusive.

    How about these:
    – Rachel’s story was sincere, compelling, intelligent and articulate. Clearly she’s an intelligent and talented young woman with a desire to live the life she chooses. It’s disappointing (but regrettably not unusual) that her family doesn’t choose to love and accept her as she is, and makes such love conditional on accepting the gospel.
    – It’s also disappointing to see you gloss over her points. Quinton is correct to find the challenge she faced, troubling. It is one of the significant logical challenges to the claims made in Christianity. Please, in the main article, do Rachel the courtesy of treating her as a well spoken and articulate young woman, and try not to further the misogyny so prevalent in fundamentalist Christianity.
    – Try reading A History of God, by Karen Armstrong. Then try anything by Bart Ehrman. Then make up your own mind about the veracity of the Bible, whether it’s actually divine scripture or instead a selected collection of unproven claims by various authors with various agendas, primarily iron age in origin and mangled through a series of translations, addendae and omissions.
    – I was a practicing catholic for many years, a scripture reader, youth group leader, communion assistant. More and more, I could see the damage religious dictates were doing not only in society as a whole but in my life personally. Happily, starting with Karen Armstrong’s book, those days are long gone.
    – By the way, Atheism doesn’t equate with immorality. The Golden Rule is hardwired into our genetic code, through compassion, empathy and so on, thanks to evolution. It’s now a common meme that “Religion is the only force that can cause good people to do bad things”.

    Good luck, folks.

  • Glenn July 29, 2013, 1:52 pm

    Jeff, this is a pretty terrible slur: ” It’s disappointing (but regrettably not unusual) that her family doesn’t choose to love and accept her as she is, and makes such love conditional on accepting the gospel.”

    Is there even the slightest evidence that this is the case?

    As for the rest, thanks for the suggestion, but I’m somewhat familiar with Ehrman’s work. Your reference to misogyny on my part is mere theatrics, and nothing that I have said calls this woman’s intellect into question.

  • steve July 30, 2013, 1:19 am

    You claim that “Isolation, rather than being good for Christian faith as suggested here, is in fact bad for it.”, however polls indicate that young xtians are leaving the fundie churches in droves (nearly 3 out of 5 by age 15 according to Christian Post), and exposure to dissenting points of view available on the Internet are a major driver.

    Apparently young xtians find that “Christians demonize everything outside of the church” and ” feel that their experience of Christianity was shallow”.

    They are also repulsed by the fact that “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” and feel that that the church’s teachings on birth control and sex are “out of date.”

    Your article seems to contain all of the characteristics that are driving young xtians away from fundie religions so I say please keep up the good work.

  • Jim July 30, 2013, 5:53 am

    Dearest Dr. Glenn,

    Atheists who read about Ms. Slick’s story don’t really give a rip about what it says about Matt Slick and his theology. We’re interested because her experience is similar to many of our own experiences growing up, particularly those of us who grew up in fundamentalist Christian households. No need for you to feel so threatened, and thus act condescending, about someone’s story.

    Thanks.

  • Glenn July 30, 2013, 7:25 am

    Dearest Jim, I don’t recall commenting on Matt Slick’s theology at all, actually. But I thank you for being the second person to suggest that all of this is just driven by the fact that I am threatened. You got me. I’m simply terrified. Intellectual vacuity keeps me up at night. Your own comment, for example, is downright petrifying.

    Steve, it’s interesting that you should so readily grant that ex-christian young people had a shallow experience with Christianity in the first place.

  • steve July 30, 2013, 7:45 am

    Dearest Dr. Glenn,

    Given the nature of xtianity, what other type of experience could they have had ?

    And it’s not me making those statements, these are the stated opinions of young ex-xtians that responded to the various polls that show that xtianity (at least in the US) is hemorrhaging it’s young demographic.

    You may not like what they have to say, and it doesn’t matter what you and I think about their reasons for leaving, leaving they are and I find this very heartening and once again applaud you for your personal contribution to this mass exodus.

  • Isaac July 30, 2013, 8:58 am

    Posts like this clearly demonstrate why Christianity is failing in the arena of ideas.

    Christian bloggers and writers always look for some easy answer in the increasing tide of apostasy. They cling to a few words of the apostates and run back to the scriptures to find something that explains it away so they don’t have to think through the true reason they failed. Christianity had every shot at her mind from one of Christianity’s best thinkers, and it still failed. The reason she listed, I’m sure, is not the only reason she became an atheist, but rather the straw that broke the camel’s back.

  • Glenn July 30, 2013, 11:59 am

    “various polls”

    Nice and vague. Steve, for what it’s worth, the peer reviewed research shows that the young people who leave Christianity are the least likely to have obtained post-secondary school qualifications, the most likely to have issues with drugs and/or alcohol, and the most likely to have begun sexual relationships outside of marriage.

    Now of course, peer reviewed research cannot dissect motives or make value judgements. But I can. The research shows precisely what we should expect to find if it is social and/or moral factors that lead to this apostasy you speak of, rather than serious intellectual ones.

    The one in this blog post is a case in point. The person involved volunteered the fact that abandoning her religion was part of the process of overcoming moral reservations about a lifestyle that she desired, and now she had replaced God with moral autonomy (e.g. “freedom is my God”). Alongside this admission, she described an intellectually feeble reason that she gives as the intellectual reason for her departure.

    I find it most telling that when Christians detail their life circumstances that led to their conversion (e.g. Francis Collins, Bill Craig), they are mocked as providing nothing intellectually rigorous, and yet when someone is put on display because of her family connections and actually does provide what she says is the intellectual catalyst for her de-conversion, which then becomes the subject of criticism, people rush to her defence with “but it’s just her story, ignore the arguments she uses!”

    Isaac, contrary to your claim, the intellectual reason that this woman offers is not described as the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. Instead it is described as the start of the slide away from Christianity, as the intellectual spark that started the fire. All the rest, we are told, unraveled from there. Indeed, it was precisely this argument, she says, that caused an event where “logic whispered” to her that there’s no God!

    I understand that you might wish for Christianity to be losing in the world of ideas (whatever you might think that means), but that is no substitute for a defence of the argument that this woman used. Of course it’s self-flattering and perhaps more conducive to making one feel secure to imagine that you and those who believe as you do are as pure as the driven snow, driven by nothing but the most impeccable reasoning. Tempting though it may be to entertain this thought, it’s an illusion. Human thought and behaviour are driven by myriad non-rational factors, like it or not. It’s quite clear in the case that the rather weak intellectual reason offered was not the real driver here, in spite of it being the only intellectual reason disclosed – offered as though it were the catalyst, in fact.

  • steve July 30, 2013, 1:12 pm

    Dearest Dr. Glenn,

    So you “grant” that young xtians are leaving your fundie religions just as soon as they start to achieve a degree of personal autonomy in their lives.

    I am touched that this young woman decided to share her story with a wider audience in spite of knowing that she would face sanctions from her family and friends and attract a measure of acrimony from sanctimonious religious bigots. It speaks to a depth of character and personal bravery that appears to be lacking in those that would criticise her.

    That you would distort the data to fit in with your post hoc rationalizations to claim that all those who would leave xtiany must be lacking in education and/or have issues with drugs and their sexuality is truly disgusting.

    I could just as easily say that children subjected to that form of childhood abuse known as religious indoctrination would of course be more prone to aberrant behaviour and for every damaged child that escapes the clutches of religion there are most surely many more who never have the opportunity to live complete and fulfilled lives.

    And unlike you, I do not stand in judgement.

    I wish Rachael the best no matter what path she takes and will not demand reasons from her for whatever decisions she makes in the future. I will not impune her intellect or character because she does not live up to my expectations.

  • bobmo July 30, 2013, 1:17 pm

    Steve said, “And unlike you, I do not stand in judgement.”

    You don’t stand in judgement…unless it’s Glenn.

  • Glenn July 30, 2013, 1:30 pm

    Steve, one correction (although I suspect the misunderstanding is feigned and you know this is not what I said): “So you “grant” that young xtians are leaving your fundie religions just as soon as they start to achieve a degree of personal autonomy in their lives.”

    You’ve reversed things. Actually my suggestion was that people leave the faith in order to pursue moral autonomy, not because they have moral autonomy. Remember: “Freedom is my God now.”

    “to claim that all those who would leave xtiany must be lacking in education and/or have issues with drugs and their sexuality is truly disgusting.”

    Tut tut. Lies do not become us. I never claimed that. Save your mock disgust (as others should save their pretend outrage at nonexistent sexism and make-believe anger at imaginary condescension. Artificial emotions do nothing to make an otherwise unhappy comment any more compelling).

    As for your obviously false statement that you do not stand in judgement (never trust a person who is incapable of making judgements about people): You will notice that this blog post actually does not end up morally judging Rachael. For obvious reasons, I do actually think that she has made choices that are morally at odds with Christianity – and she agrees – but that was not the point here. The point here is that Mr Mehmet has traded on Rachel’s family connections, and not at all on the intellectual respectability of her deconversion account.

    I hope this helps to clarify things for you Steve
    All the very best
    Glenn

  • Glenn July 30, 2013, 9:18 pm

    (Just FWIW – Further posts that wax emotive about how disgusted, upset, outraged, enraged, offended, etc, somebody is about this post will likely be ignored. For guidelines on the sort of discussion that I welcome, please see the blog policy.)

  • Billy Squibs July 31, 2013, 12:21 am

    Odd that steve accuses you of standing in judgement, whilst using emotive words like “bigots” and “disgusting”, and then goes on to pass judgement on something you never said – i.e. “to claim that all those who would leave xtiany must be lacking in education and/or have issues with drugs and their sexuality is truly disgusting”.

    Is this down to lack of comprehension or wilful misrepresentation?

    I couldn’t help but be struck by the closing line of Ms Slick’s article and how she revealed – possibly unwittingly – that her doubt was buttressed by her desire, rather than her atheism being primarily fuelled by rational enquiry. Still, I’m sure there is much more to this story. Perhaps she’ll appear on Unbelievable? one of these days.

    A final thought. It appears to me that stories like these seem to have such purchase in their respective communities (broadly theist and atheist) because most of us are moved by narrative and not cold and hard facts. (Although a good story is surely better when combined with evidence.) Such stories can dishearten and embolden people on all sides of the fence. It wasn’t that long ago that Leah Libresco converted from atheism to Christianity, which prompted all manner of heated comments.

    So while some from the non-theist community might like to tell us that their non-belief is grounded purely in reason, often it appears otherwise. For example, some go about their business of promoting their non-belief in God by using mockery and scorn, methods that I don’t think are designed to appeal to reason.

  • Glenn July 31, 2013, 12:28 pm

    Billy, Leah’s conversion story, although still a story, is a powerful contrast to this one.

  • bobmo July 31, 2013, 12:38 pm

    Glenn,

    Have you been reading the more recent comments over at http://freethoughtblogs.com/axp/2013/07/27/apologists-only-dudes-can-have-good-reasons-to-be-an-atheist ?

    Rachael has weighed in regarding her motivation for leaving home.

  • Jeff July 31, 2013, 1:54 pm

    Well, interesting again. Glenn, I suspect this is what drew Steve’s comment… I’ve seen, in fact, the opposite.

    “Nice and vague. Steve, for what it’s worth, the peer reviewed research shows that the young people who leave Christianity are the least likely to have obtained post-secondary school qualifications, the most likely to have issues with drugs and/or alcohol, and the most likely to have begun sexual relationships outside of marriage.”

    Studies I’ve seen indicate that atheists are on average younger, better educated and have higher incomes than theists… not sure which you’re looking at… Some brief examples, if you’re interested…

    http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2010/09/religions-correlation-with-poverty/

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2013/03/05/f-religion-economic-growth.html

    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20120201093530AA4kDG7

    http://davesource.com/Fringe/Fringe/Religion/Average-intelligence-predicts-atheism-rates-across-137-nations-Lynn-et-al.pdf

    Limited studies and potentially flawed in some ways, in that correlation isn’t causation. However- they certainly paint a different picture than your claim. If we wish to get anecdotal, my atheist friends tend to be quite cautious about risky behaviour, believing that this is the life we get, there are no do-overs, (not even if we attend mass and confession) and that we are all people, all of us merit respect and fair treatment.

    Thanks.

  • Glenn July 31, 2013, 6:48 pm

    Jeff, the first two links are about religion and wealth (beyond the scope of my comments). Since you mentioned it, the second link is interesting: People are less likely to be religious as they gain more wealth (rather than the other way around), which makes sense. It’s quite plausible that, since people do at times come to God in times of need, the less people think they need, the less they might come to God.

    The third link at answers.yahoo is largely about wealth – although it doesn’t seem to describe a large study (it’s not clear what the articles that it quotes are in terms of the kind of study they represent). The last one appears to be a study of the right sort – although strictly speaking I said nothing about “intelligence rates,” only education.

    So your links do not appear to contradict my claims at all.

    Some of the findings I describe are from a study published in the British Journal of Psychology, which I have discussed previously and invite you to have a look at. I summarise the results as follows:

    By far the most marked difference was in terms of illicit drug use and alcohol abuse, it’s a close fight between the non-religious/spiritual and the spiritual, with the non-religious/spiritual seriously over-represented in hazardous drinking, by far the largest gap between “first” and “second” in any category. This is merely correlation, of course, and not cause and effect. See below.

    Although the religious did especially well in the categories on substance use, they were also ahead in all other categories – but only marginally – with the exception of psychosis, where they were second, but, again, there was virtually nothing between the groups. The religious also topped the “very happy” category.

    The spiritual (but not within a specific religious tradition) fared poorly by comparison, actually doing worse than the non-religious/spiritual in terms of drug dependency but not as bad in terms of drug use in general and alcohol abuse. However, the spiritual did slightly worse in regard to mental illness than the non-religious/spiritual, and were either the highest or highest equal for being on medication (psychotropic) or receiving counselling/therapy. Of course, this is not an observation about cause and effect. This does not show that being spiritual but not religious causes worse mental health. It is possible, for example, as the authors suggest, that “they are caught up in an existential search that is driven by their emotional distress.” In other words, spirituality may be the search prompted by their sense of brokenness and need.

    It was interesting to note the fact that those who were neither religious nor spiritual were also the people least likely to have a qualification beyond high school.

    Another large study that was carried out was “Losing My Religion: The Social Sources of Religious Decline in Early Adulthood,” a study whose findings were published in Social Forces in 2007. Link.

    The study found that “Religious decline does indeed vary by education level, but not in the way most might expect. For all three types of religious decline, it is the respondents who did not go to college who exhibit the highest rates of diminished religiosity. Those with the highest level of education – the respondents with at least a bachelor’s degree – are the least likely to curtail their church attendance.” Here’s a snapshot of their findings:

      Decline in church attendance Decline in importance of religion Lost religious affiliation
    Education      
    Never went to college 76.2 23.7 20.3
    Went to college but achieved no qualification 71.5 16.3 14.6
    Earned associate degree (like a diploma) 60.3 15.1 14.4
    Earned at least a bachelor’s degree 59.2 15.0 15.0
    Family situation      
    Now single 68.4 20.0 16.7
    Now cohabiting 84.5 27.1 22.4
    Now married 56.7 14.1 13.2
    Behaviour      
    Had sex before marriage 72.8 21.0 17.5
    Did not have sex before marriage 49.6 15.1 14.1
    Has smoked pot 79.2 24.3 21.3
    Has not smoked pot 60.4 16.5 13.2
    Increased alcohol consumption 73.0 21.1 17.2

    I’ve also commented in past past on the way that, when people are apparently trying to make the case that atheist = smarter / better educated, very often it’s telling what information is being removed from the full story (http://www.rightreason.org/2010/religion-and-education-what-has-actually-been-shown/)

    Now of course, none of this shows that any religion is true – and I never suggested that it did. But it’s a necessary remedy – if we’re interested in truth and not caricature – to some of the point scoring that goes on and the vague references to “various polls.”

  • Glenn July 31, 2013, 9:37 pm

    Yeah I noticed that bobmo. Sudden silence from the: “Her Dad was abusive, he cut her off!” crowd. Nope. She saw what she wanted out of the home, she went after it, and cut ties to that which would have stood in her way: God and family if need be.

    And if people think I say this in gloating – not even close. This is really awful, which is why it is so exploitative of the whole situation for the “friendly atheist” to have done this.

  • Jeff August 1, 2013, 2:10 am

    Thanks for the reply, Glenn, but I feel the need to point out the British Journal of Psychology study you directed readers to, showed a very small, not statistically significant difference in all criteria examined save experimentation or use of illicit drugs, and hazardous use of alcohol.

    The Lynn-Harvey-Nyborg study, link below, illustrated (on a much larger sample size) a correlation between national IQ and disbelief in God of 0.60, certainly significant. Several related studies, including the Bell 2002 study, are referenced.
    http://davesource.com/Fringe/Fringe/Religion/Average-intelligence-predicts-atheism-rates-across-137-nations-Lynn-et-al.pdf

    A more reasoned approach may be illustrated by the Meisenberg study, summarized here… http://epiphenom.fieldofscience.com/2012/07/does-education-mean-more-or-less.html

    and to quote, ‘”Meisenberg concludes that, overall, there is a “negligible relationship between intelligence and religiosity in advanced societies”.

    However, when comparing between countries at different levels of economic development, “religious belief declines sharply with rising education and, especially, intelligence. ‘

    To bring it back to your claim, these studies indicate that within a country there is no significant relationship between intelligence and religiosity, contrary to your claim. As countries progress economically, wealth and education both tend to increase, with a corresponding increase in ability to score well on standardized measures of intelligence. With wealth, education and better IQ scores comes additional disbelief in religion.

    That’s the tie to wealth, which I had included in my prior comments. Suggesting that abandoning religion leads to substance abuse, lack of education and promiscuity outside of marriage is somewhat irresponsible and misleading, based on one or two limited studies.

  • Glenn August 1, 2013, 9:03 am

    Hi Jeff

    I can’t help but notice that although you focused on the fact that one study showed only a slight difference in alcohol / drug issues (although it showed a significant difference in drug history), you entirely ignored what it found about education, and you overlooked the other study’s findings (on education and social practices) altogether. Why? You offered a tiny snippet of a comment on one, ignored most of it – and entirely ignored the other study, and then went back to talking about a different study with findings about “intelligence.”

    So in short – In spite of you initially chiming in as though you disagreed with what I said, and as though I had said something that was contrary to evidence, now that I have shown the evidence you seem to have withdrawn that suggestion, and are instead talking about a different issue, which I never raised or commented on.

    Agreed? Because it looks like your concerns with my claims have now been addressed. So to sum up based on what the research indicates: In fact, in the study in BJP, those who hold no religious / spiritual beliefs at all are, surprisingly to some, were the least likely to hold a qualification beyond high school. The non religious were slightly more likely to have drug / alcohol issues, and the religious were the most likely to be “very happy.” The American study (which you appear to have overlooked entirely) indicates that yes, there is a correlation between education and the abandonment of religion, but it is an inverse correlation: The more educated a young person is, the less likely they are to abandon religion. The American study also showed that alcohol, drugs and sex outside of marriage have positive correlations with the abandonment of religion. As far as I could see you didn’t offer any criticisms of the methodology or findings of this research – nor did you try to claim that it wasn’t properly peer-reviewed, so I’m assuming we accept the findings.

    There’s also the concern that I raised (and linked to – did you read that?) about incomplete presentation of research when it comes to trying to show that the religious in general are (in strictly relative terms) intellectually deficient, but that is a slightly different issue.

    As I said, it doesn’t show that any religion is true. I didn’t bring this up to make that sort of argument – or to make any argument at all, because I didn’t bring it up. But it does nobody any good to just ignore the facts – and it’s certainly no good to be vague and talking about what “various polls” show, which is why I wanted to bring the findings of the research into the discussion.

    I’d be interested, actually Jeff, in knowing how you think these findings are best explained.

    Cheers
    Glenn

  • Jeff August 1, 2013, 1:20 pm

    Not at all, I think the studies you quoted were limited in sample size, didn’t show what you suggested they did and the ones I listed are somewhat larger- they in fact disagree with those you cited, in a statistically significant way, with your claims about those who walk away from the faith. I tend to believe it’s easy for atheists to point to the religious and suggest “if only they were better informed, read their sacred texts with an open mind, had a little more prosperity and education, they’d see how delusional such faith-based beliefs are”. And likewise, it’s easy for the religious to point to studies like the ones you’ve shown and say “look, without God’s guidance, they’re morally lost- they do all these things, they can’t stick with higher education, they have premarital sex and do illicit drugs, they can’t be trusted”. In reality neither are true.

    The studies I quoted tie intelligence to faithlessness, but go on to explain they may be a result of a third element, national prosperity which allows education, access to information and thereby enables improved performance on standardized IQ tests- I only looked at intelligence, frankly, could have looked at alcohol or premarital sex and found similar countervailing studies, I know a number of Catholic priests who’ve spent significant time in alcohol rehab.

    Looking down our noses at those with other beliefs is nonsense, and is not Christian, in my opinion. So, no, I still think your claims are nonsense.

    I remain concerned at the attacks on the secular nature of western political systems, and the attempts to preserve religious belief by trying to pass off Creationism as “science” for example. And, I do believe that the major religions, without exception, relegate women to 2nd class citizenship, but that’s another story.

  • Jeff August 1, 2013, 1:22 pm

    Oops, one more for you… statistically significant…

    http://www.freakonomics.com/2011/04/25/does-more-education-lead-to-less-religion/

  • Glenn August 1, 2013, 1:54 pm

    Jeff, some of the comments that I am about to make are critical in nature. Please do not take them as insults.

    Your responses are not sufficiently clear to be evaluated. I’d like you to review the contrasting ways that each of us have been responding here. Someone else made a vague generalised comment about various surveys, and I responded by referring to peer reviewed literature. You spoke up and pasted a number of links, asking for my sources.

    Here’s the part to notice: I provided and summarised my sources, and then – here’s the part where we contrast most strongly – then I spoke to each of the looks you posted, and detailed just why some of them were not relevant, and I acknowledged that one of them was almost relevant, but on a slightly different subject.

    Then without missing a beat you – again, without offering any substantial criticism of the studies I supplied (other than to note that in one of them, one of the correlations – the one involving current use of illegal drugs – was very weak), you pasted more links and quoted from them.

    I noticed this, so I explained what you had done, pointed out that you hadn’t addressed the material I had offered at all, and asked you to do so.

    And now – remaining just as vague as before, you reply by asserting that they “didn’t show what you suggested they did,” but you never explain why not (what do I claim they have said? And what do they really show?). You assert that your studies were larger and that they disagree with mine, but you show no evidence that you even understand what the studies that I have cited even show.

    Brave, general statements do not suffice. As it turns out, you are again mistaken as to whether or not the papers you have cited disagree with the research that I have provided for you. Please take note as I do this, because I’m trying to show you what I expect in return (with respect, thus far you haven’t offered it).

    Look at the last link you gave – the Hungerman study. Actually follow the link, all the way through to the pdf of the article itself, and read it for yourself. The claim made in that article is that in Canada, pupils who completed an extra year of compulsory public schooling were 4% less likely to identify with a religious tradition. You might regard that as significant, but it’s not even relevant as a response to the research I have provided you with.

    If you read the research that I provided for you, you will see that this does not disagree with it at all. The fact that you maintain otherwise gives the impression that you did not read some or all of the research that we are discussing, or that you read it but did not understand it. My claim is that the research in Social Forces finds that of those young people who abandon religion, those who have no higher education (note: Higher education, not high school, which your last link was about) are the most likely to leave, those with a lower degree are next, and so on. The less educated (in terms of higher education), the more likely to leave. No disagreement between the studies. And this study you linked to (but may not have read) said nothing about the many other correlations (sex and relationships, psychological wellbeing, happiness, substance use etc).

    I read the brief description you linked to (actually, you linked to a page that had a link to the description!) about the research by David Voas, but the reference to “graduates” was not clear on whether it meant high-school graduates or something else.

    The Lynn-Harvey-Nyborg study that you briefly allude and link to does not appear to even ask the same question that the studies I have provided are asking, saying nothing about the differing patterns of leaving religion among the educated and less educated, so I do not see how you can claim that it “disagrees” with the studies that I have provided. I must again wonder whether you even read that study – or the ones I have provided.

    You get the point, Jeff. You are just throwing out links, quoting from them and hoping that they will show something about the research that I have provided. They do not.

    Take care in replying, Jeff – I mean that. Please be careful in your reply. I don’t like having to go through comments and point out that they are detached from the facts that they are referring to. it is tiresome and should not be my job. Again, I’m not trying to insult you, but please either seriously engage the facts in good faith, carefully read all the sources you cite for yourself and make sure that you understand them, or desist altogether.

  • Glenn August 1, 2013, 2:15 pm

    … although I agree there is a cheap thrill and a false (but temporary) sense of intellectual satisfaction in throwing out links without thinking about it. So….

    http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/050714/doctorsfaith.shtml

    http://prosblogion.ektopos.com/archives/2012/02/one-of-the-stri.html

    Ah…. I got to see into your world for a moment there, Jeff. Fun! ;)

    (Yes, I admit, that was a bit mean.)

  • Sandra August 3, 2013, 1:04 pm

    Hey Glenn – Yesterday I read your review of that book package from Logos, and in particular I was struck by your concern over the fact that women’s voices were being overlooked – as though they had nothing to offer on the subjects surveyed. A concern very eloquently expressed.

    And then today I had the misfortune of reading Russell Glasser’s blog entry over at “Believers Vs Non-believers” where he tried to accuse you of sexism (seriously?) because you accused the Friendly Atheist guy of just using Rachael because she had a family connection to an apologist, and didn’t offer any compelling arguments of her own.

    Honestly, I just shook my head. He may as well have asked readers what a homophobic infanticidal racist like you would know! (Not that you are of course, but that’s the point!) This guy doesn’t know the first thing about you and is desperately grasping at straws.

  • Sandra August 4, 2013, 10:23 pm

  • ageofreasonxxi August 8, 2013, 3:14 am

    ” you’re simply using her like a hunter showing off a kill ”
    maybe he is. but “killing off” the Christian delusions is a worthy endeavor, so every kill is an occasion to celebrate. when it comes to religion, “giving that knife a twist” is always funn :))

  • Billy Squibs August 8, 2013, 5:03 am

    BTW, Glenn, I somewhat took up the mantle on the site that bobmo linked to. While I granted that people might legitimately disagree with the overall thrust of your post, I objected to the insinuation that you were motivated by sexism/ misogyny. After asking for specific examples of this apparent sexism, I gave up after one poster claimed that the term “heavy lifting” (as in “the economics department did the heavy lifting on the details of the report”) was an inherently sexist remark. I suppose because in their mind women generally are not as physically strong as men and hence this was a derogatory term – or some such rot. Ironically I couldn’t find any reference of you using this term anywhere. This from the same person who basically appealed to readers to imagine that you are a sexist which meant that you are therefore a sexist. Incredible what passes for clear thinking amongst the freethinking community.

  • Glenn August 8, 2013, 9:23 am

    Billy, it makes you shake your head, right?

  • James August 10, 2013, 8:09 am

    Trolling for fish always seemed to me a much better pastime than trolling for knee-jerk, furious comments. Sad times, indeed.

  • Ben August 11, 2013, 11:32 am

    Glenn wrote: “To say that this sells theology short is an understatement of epic proportions. To a Christian who up until now has taken the faith seriously an an intellectual level, holding a view that this faith is robust enough to withstand a bit of light prodding such as this, the solution would have been a bit of light (yes, actually very light) reading on the subject – and there is plenty to be done.”

    I guess I’m not seeing the obvious solution here. What would you have had her read? On the contrary, the problem does seem to be insurmountable as she claimed, given suitable assumptions of course. Namely, she had believed God’s morality didn’t change—it “surpassed space, time,” to use her words. Evidently she also believed that at least some of the no-longer-applicable Old Testament laws were moral laws. And finally, she may have believed that not only are those OT laws no longer applicable, but they are no longer moral laws, e.g. it is no longer immoral to, say, work on the Sabbath. These beliefs seem to me to conflict quite directly with each other.

    Now, if you want to say that you can jettison one (or all) of these beliefs without abandoning Christianity, I will agree with you. But my point is, her religious belief system may well have been incoherent for exactly the reason she stated. So it makes sense for her to be shaken by discovering that. You don’t have to read into her deconversion some psycho-sexual analysis. It may well have been exactly what she described—the emotionally-crushing realization that her religious beliefs were utter nonsense.

  • Glenn August 11, 2013, 4:05 pm

    “Now, if you want to say that you can jettison one (or all) of these beliefs without abandoning Christianity, I will agree with you.” Where did I say this? You think it’s insurmountable, and so I’d consider you in the same category: Fairly unread on biblical ethics.

    As per your request, here are a few suggestions for light reading (i.e.: does not require any prior qualifications):
    Wayne G. Strickland (ed.), Five Views on Law and Gospel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) – This is a great entry level book with contributions from authors who have different stances on the question of how Old Testament law relates to a New Testament context. I don’t share the views of all contributors, but the point is only that there are all fairly well known positions within Christian ethics.

    Walter C. Kaiser Jr, Toward Old Testament Ethics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983).

    Richard N. Longenecker, “Three Ways of Understanding Relations Between the Testaments: Historically and Today,” in Gerald F. Hawthorne and Otto Betz (eds), Tradition and Interpretation in the New Testament (Grand Rapids/Tübingen: Eerdmans/J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1987), 22-32.

    But also a good general familiarity with the way that leading theologians over the centuries would help here: Whether Calvin, Luther, Aquinas or the Church Fathers. You say that “Evidently she also believed that at least some of the no-longer-applicable Old Testament laws were moral laws,” and obviously she did believe this – and also thought that moral laws were somehow comparable to mathematics. But this is certainly not a shared view among biblical scholars and theologians – that in fact moral standards or moral truths changed between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Indeed to take that for granted without much question is to place oneself outside of an informed perspective on this subject. So it just makes no sense to put a story like this on display with an argument like this, as though it is meant to be a crippling takedown. It’s inconceivable that someone who had the level of understanding that the reader is clearly meant to attribute to the writer can actually have thought this through carefully and said: Yes, this is intellectually compelling.”

    On the contrary, a reason was sought – virtually any reason to point to, and the first, most flimsy candidate was grasped and used as the rationale. Human beings have a staggering ability to convince themselves that they are under the command of cool, clear reason.

  • Ben August 12, 2013, 9:25 am

    Glenn,

    That’s some kind of “light reading”!

    Fortunately, in this case whether or not you think I’m unread on Biblical ethics is beside the point. Sure, she could have changed her view on ethics and held onto the most of the rest of her Christian beliefs. That’s what I meant before about jettisoning some of her beliefs without abandoning Christianity. But the point is, she realized her religious beliefs were nonsense. Assuming that she really did believe those other things about morality, then her argument against her old view is a good one. We just need to make sure she really does intend it as an argument against her old view, and not yours or your author ethicists’.

    Now, we can always ask why she did not salvage what she could of her old view instead of rejecting Christianity entirely. But that’s a different issue.

  • Glenn August 12, 2013, 6:57 pm

    Yes, if someone is accustomed to reading theology, that’s light reading.

    “But the point is, she realized her religious beliefs were nonsense.” Well, the argument she offered certainly offered no support for this.

    And the question you refer to of “why she did not salvage what she could of her old view instead of rejecting Christianity entirely” is not at all a different issue. This issue has already been covered in the discussion thread precisely because it is so relevant. Indeed, in this article I noted that this one issue (which can actually be very cogently addressed) led Rachel to react as though her entire world had been nuked. She didn’t simply adjust, she decided that it was all false.

    As I said when this was discussed earlier in this thread, “It only fuels the thought that this wasn’t about evidence, but an excuse to jump ship entirely.”

    I appreciate that you have really issues with me accepting that this was her objection to her own set of beliefs, rather than mine. In fact I’m not having that difficulty. Recall that this was someone who wanted to make sure that the reader understood that she knew her stuff. And yet when this came up…. nevermind the possible cogent explanation, it was the chance to escape.

    Ben, this might help:

    Hi folks, it’s Rick here from creationism-is-true.com . I want to share a powerful story with you. This is Gavin’s story. He’s the son of a famous evolutionist. They’ve fallen out and they don’t talk to each other (btw, hi Gavin’s Dad!). Here it is:

    I’m Gavin, and this is my story. I was a very promising biologist. I was raised by one of the bright lights of evolutionary biology, and my father tested me all the time. I was (and am) very, very well informed on the science of evolution. I knew this stuff inside out. I knew the mechanisms of evolution back-to-front. I could easily point to all the best evidence for what I believed. If I was ever going to change my mind – you can bet that it would only ever be for the very best possible evidence. I thought like a real scientist.

    And yet, I became increasingly dissatisfied. If creationism were true, my outlook on life would have been different. I didn’t like the idea that I would disappear forever when I die. That left me cold and empty inside. The thought that there might be a God out there who loved me… was too wonderful to be true.

    But I am a person of evidence. Only if the hard science showed me that was wrong would I even consider changing my mind. And then one day when I was having a chat with my friend Karen, I was faced with something that the evidence couldn’t handle. “If evolution happens over a long period of time,” she asked, “how come there aren’t more transitional fossils?” I suggested “punctuated equilibrium,” but as soon as I said it, a deep sense of shame swept over me. I was offering a theory to cover up for a lack of evidence. The evidence – the real, scientific, hard evidence, could not save me.

    I sat awake in my room that night, unable to sleep. “Evolution is false,” the voice of logic quietly told me. “God is real.” “God loves you.” “The Bible is all 100% true.” I believed. All of it. Every bit. Even the parts that had nothing to do with transitional fossils (which was most of it, actually).

    It took a little while for this all to sink in. For a few months I was still fighting to shake off my fear of death, and to accept that our creator is a father who loves me and sent his son to die for me. But Jesus is my Lord now, not science. And I love him more than I could ever love my old God. Now I have eternal life, praise the Lord, I’m finally so happy!

    In a situation like the one I just described I would consider that the creationist website is just using Gavin’s story because of who his father is, and that his conversion was the product of desperately grasping at weak arguments to rationalise the change of outlook to what he really wanted to be true.

    Now Ben, there’s no need to offer your objections to Gavin’s story. I am not endorsing it. Just think about the kind of objections you might have – asking with incredulity how a person who claimed that background understanding that Gavin claimed could have fallen at the feet of such a weak argument, noting the clearly desire-fulfilling role that his new faith played and noting the bizarre move of abandoning wholesale his beliefs about evolution because of one problem that could simply have been remedied with a little effort.

    Then – possibly – you’ll start to see why I wrote this blog entry.

  • Billy Squibs August 13, 2013, 12:22 am

    Interesting reworking of the original story, Glenn.

  • ropata August 13, 2013, 3:36 pm

    This could be a healthy step for Rachael, to explore freedoms, taboos, and other points of view than the much overhyped, commoditised and dumbed-down christian subculture offered to young people today. Her decision could also be attributed to youthful rashness, jumping to conclusions, and overconfidence. I hope that she finds whatever it is she is looking for, and that she returns to the unconditional love of Christ.

    I was a convert to Christianity at the tender age of 17 from an atheist background, and I recognise the allurement of feeling intellectually superior to those backward religious weirdoes! Ars Technica recently reported a meta analysis of the correlation between intelligence and faith, and it seems to be true that average IQs of certain nations inversely correlate to religious belief.

    But such (highly questionable) exercises in IQ snobbery don’t address the fundamental questions at all; they merely bolster flimsy prejudice.

    The intellectual heritage of the Christian faith is a deep river that one could swim in for a lifetime. There is plenty of evidence for God if one is prepared to sincerely seek. There is never 100% certainty, but atheism doesn’t offer that either. It just posits ‘reasonable’ theories like something coming from nothing.

  • djdnmenche September 8, 2013, 5:40 pm

    I was raised by a hard core religious fundamentalist father. College taught me to think critically and to look for proof to test theories. When I looked for proof that the Bible is the word of God, or that God even exists, there just isn’t any. Furthermore, I have debated numerous Christians and asked them for proof. Not a single one has been able to offer any. The best I get from them is “faith.”
    Please, if you have proof that the Bible is the word of God, and/or that God exists, show it to me. And pointing out that we don’t know how certain things came to be is not proof that God exists. Just because we don’t know the answer to the question of how we got here doesn’t mean that the answer is that God created us.

  • Glenn September 8, 2013, 8:04 pm

    djdnmenche, you cannot be serious (by which I mean that you really are not serious). I would think that maybe you might say that of the many arguments and evidences used in support of theism or Christianity, you don’t find them adequate because of XYZ. But to just say that there’s nothing – nothing at all, is a red flag.

    Therefore my advice is: Google it.

  • Albert November 19, 2013, 8:39 am

    Hi John;
    You were looking for a comment?
    Your ending part on the comment was bang on.
    We do spend too much time looking at our faith instead of walking in it. We keep looking for that “magical” formula. We are simply told to walk and do in the faith we have.
    Paul himself kept saying that he found sin and faith working both in him.
    There is nothing wrong with thinking and trusting at the same time. Thinking will help with the trust. Paul was no slack in education when it came to scriptures, if anything he knew more than the others did, and to that fact was able to compare the old scriptures with what Jesus was saying. We have a choice. If we feel guilty them maybe something is wrong.
    If my dad tells me not to play with matches because I could hurt my self, and then I do, sure my dad is going to scold me, but he is also going to help me get rid of the pain.
    I am 61 yrs of age and still have “sin” in my life, but definitely not as much as I did 20 yrs ago. I feel as Paul did, sin is still there working against what good I want to do, but I stop, think about it, and do what is necessary to avoid it, and trust in my salvation and faith (how ever it may be limited at that time).

  • John November 20, 2013, 2:27 am

    Just regarding your comment ‘If we feel guilty them maybe something is wrong’, to be honest, Im not sure how its possible to not feel guilty given that we all do sin despite our ‘salvation status’, and because salvation status really does seem to be conditional in the end. Its odd. On the one hand we are told salvation is free and via grace, and yet at the same time told that we must do X to become or stay ‘saved’. That is either contradictory or paradoxical… Either way, the result is the same, a conflicted feeling of guilt or shame while being ‘saved/accepted’. So then, how are we to rise above guilt and shame when we are continually told salvation is conditional/yet free… its so odd. How to improve when you continually hear about/focus on all the faults and flaws?
    Anyway, I dont know for sure what to believe any more. I just believe in Christ and the resurrection in some sense-and thats it! But I hold everything fairly loosely and open to learning now because I have been so disillusioned time and time again over the past 15 years. Disillusioned by the fact that we just cannot rely on scripture to give us certainty nor even plausibility of reliability given that its so un-unified and imprecise in its own teaching on so many topics (hence why all Christians will differ widely on various any possible topic, and can validly interpret scripture to support their varying ideas).

  • Ginny Bain Allen December 14, 2013, 6:56 am

    Here’s a helpful book for both wayward Rachael and her grieving parents during this excruciatingly difficult time:

    http://www.amazon.com/Come-Back-Barbara-John-Miller/dp/0875523846/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386957156&sr=8-1&keywords=come+back+barbara

  • Lori January 3, 2014, 2:45 am

    Rachel wrote the story as a guest to Hemant’s blog; done willingly, no doubt. Sorry, you’re just wrong. She wasn’t exploited.
    As for people leaving faith because they just want to “sin”, baloney. “Sin” is a word that only makes sense to god-believers, and some so-called “sins” have no practical basis for being categorized as wrong or evil or harmful. Rachel was an adult woman when she struggled with guilt for having sex. The guilt was a direct result of years of religious indoctrination that convinced her sex before marriage was wrong, period. Wrong even if the participants are consenting adults who know all the facts and potential consequences of their choice. Yes, atheism often brings freedom from irrational, unnecessary guilt. But it’s an awesome byproduct, a pleasant surprise. It’s not the “goal” of atheism.

  • Glenn January 3, 2014, 3:07 pm

    Lori, it’s not true that if people give consent then nobody is exploiting anything.

    ““Sin” is a word that only makes sense to god-believers” – yes, which is what people are before they give up the faith. More to the point, even those who not believe in sin know that there are some lifestyles that are at odds with the Christian faith. If they desire those things sufficiently, suddenly reality starts to look a little less Christian. Do not underestimate the role of desire in epistemology.

  • mikespeir January 4, 2014, 12:40 am

    “Do not underestimate the role of desire in epistemology.”

    You are absolutely right. I’m sometimes too quick to point out that people often can’t distinguish between their desires and their beliefs. But I am because it’s such an obvious problem. (One that none of us ever completely escapes, I’m convinced.)

    On the other hand, we also have to keep in mind that whichever direction one is traveling probably came of some earlier desire. It will probably require a contrary desire if one is ever to stop and reverse course. Sometimes, that contrary desire isn’t particularly defensible from a moral perspective. Even so, if might be just what’s needed when one is already on a track that’s no better. What needs to be demonstrated is that Rachel was on the right track to begin with and that the later desire turned her onto the wrong one. Here, simply suggesting that desire affects epistemology isn’t good enough. It’s entirely possible she was on her original course because of desires that were just as tawdry or, at least, no more defensible.

  • Lori January 4, 2014, 1:48 am

    I’m going to agree with you on something, Glenn. Even with consent, one can be exploited. However, to exploit something can be positive, e.g. exploiting a business opportunity. You quite obviously think Hemant exploited Rachel in the negative sense, using her selfishly for his own ends. But far from his own selfish interest, they share a common goal! How is that exploitation? Try reversing the situation: a Christian blog hosts an “atheist turned Christian” testimony. I presume that you wouldn’t thing that was negative exploitation. (Please correct me if I presume wrong.)

    “…even those who not believe in sin know that there are some lifestyles that are at odds with the Christian faith.” It seems you expect everyone to presuppose with you that being at odds with [your version of] the Christian faith is bad/evil/sinful. I would venture to say you’re at odds with the FLDS version of the Christian faith. I don’t know if you’re married, but if you are, do you feel guilty about your monogamous lifestyle? Their doctrine of plural marriage (which they can fully support with the Bible, by the way) heaps loads of guilt on men who desire to live with only one wife. Guilt alone is not confirmation that something is morally wrong, as guilt can be taught. It’s when one examines the WHY of moral decisions, that practical moral choices can be made.

  • Glenn January 4, 2014, 10:37 pm

    Mike, whether you’re right that she was motivated to be a Christian in the first place because of tawdry desires or not – The point here is just that the intellectual reasons for the change (or at least, the reasons alluded to) are intellectually vacuous, and the moral reasons that are suggested by the woman herself seem like far more likely candidates.

  • Glenn January 4, 2014, 10:44 pm

    “It seems you expect everyone to presuppose with you that being at odds with [your version of] the Christian faith is bad/evil/sinful.”

    Lori, no that wasn’t the point. let me try again:

    Even if an observer to this situation has no belief in “sin,” they still understand – I hope – that somebody who embraces the Christian faith believes that there are some ways of life that are at odds with that faith. That is not controversial. And if a person starts to strongly desire to do those things, that can give them a non-rational, emotional – call it what you will – motivation to leave that faith.

    So my account does not ask the non-religious observer to believe in sin at all.

    In regard to your first challenge: At no point have I suggested that anybody is taking advantage of anyone or anything just by virtue of the fact that they are hosting a story about somebody converting. That was never suggested. I can only suggest reading the blog post again, and also see my comment to Ben on August 12. That should help you to see what I am getting at here.

  • JP January 5, 2014, 1:39 am

    Hi, Glenn, hope you had a good Christmas.

    To suggest her intellectual reasoning is morally vacuous is… well, confirmation bias, maybe?

    “I still remember sitting there in my dorm room bunk bed, staring at the cheap plywood desk, and feeling something horrible shift inside me, a vast chasm opening up beneath my identity, and I could only sit there and watch it fall away into darkness.The Bible is not infallible, logic whispered from the depths, and I had no defense against it. If it’s not infallible, you’ve been basing your life’s beliefs on the oral traditions of a Middle Eastern tribe. The Bible lied to you. Everything I was, everything I knew, the structure of my reality, my society, and my sense of self suddenly crumbled away, and I was left naked. I was no longer a Christian. That thought was a punch to the gut, a wave of nausea and terror. Who was I, now, when all this had gone away? What did I know? What did I have to cling to? Where was my comfort? ??I didn’t know it, but I was free.”

    You’re neglecting that whole logical crisis, one that many of my acquaintance have felt, that I’ve caught a bit of… and yes, we’re all human and all prone to mixing logic and emotion at times.

    As for your claim that you aren’t suggesting that anybody is taking advantage of anyone or anything by virtue of hosting a story… Might I point to the title of this article, and your statement “This is either going to be an intellectually riveting insight, or it’s going to be an intellectually vapid, classless capitalisation on someone’s family tree and a broken relationship with one of the “bad guys.” Guess which it turned out to be.” Unless I am grossly misreading your intent, you are suggesting exactly that.

    Having attended university, as many of us have, I’m fairly certain you’ve noticed the variations in acceptance of the amount of the teaching of the Bible among Christians. Many of my acquaintance don’t exactly follow it closely, as Rachel seems to have done before her crisis. To claim that her reason to reject this worldview was her desire to “sin” does her a grave disservice, and amounts to slut shaming. I do understand the desire to point to someone leaving the flock and identify some flaw, some reason for the departure that doesn’t threaten the rest of our own worldview, but the tone of some of the comments and your article as well, implying that she left for her boyfriend… Many, many Christians (I’d generalize to “most”) are sexually active before marriage these days. I was a very rare exception, even 30 years ago.

    I’m happy for Rachel, and happier still that she had the courage to share the story. Hopefully her family have come to accept her, for I’d bet she’s still the same daughter she always was. Regrettably, however, religious faith in some instances can have a divisive effect when family members hold differing views.

  • Glenn January 5, 2014, 2:04 am

    “To suggest her intellectual reasoning is morally vacuous is… well, confirmation bias, maybe?”

    And your dismissal of the possibility is… well, (fill in the rest). Let’s remain above such things, shall we? The stated reason given in the article: That the question of the continuity of Old Testament law immediately led to a crushing end of faith where logic whispered that there’s no God – I’m sorry, attribute to me what you will, but that it intellectually vacuous. And for the blogger to peddle this story as an example of someone leaving religion and turning to reason is indefensible. The only reason Rachel’s story was told is just because this was a split within the family of a public apologist. Hence the claim of exploitation.

    “As for your claim that you aren’t suggesting that anybody is taking advantage of anyone or anything by virtue of hosting a story”

    That’s quite dishonest. I never made this claim at all. It was put to me that I would not see such exploitation if a Christian site hosted a story of an atheist converting to the faith. So I pointed out that “At no point have I suggested that anybody is taking advantage of anyone or anything just by virtue of the fact that they are hosting a story about somebody converting. That was never suggested.” And that is the truth. This isn’t exploitation just because it’s a conversion story. But that does not mean that it isn’t exploitation at all. I think you knew that.

    I even depicted a scenario in which I would be quite willing to see this sort of exploitation of a family situation when the conversion was in the opposite direction (see my comment to Ben, August 12). So I have to say, that attempt to re-write my comment wasn’t particularly honest.

    PS: Nice try with the ludicrous claim of “slut shaming,” but seriously? When did I ever imply that anyone was a slut? Let’s improve on the honesty levels overall.

  • JP January 5, 2014, 3:08 am

    Glenn, you’re a talented and articulate writer, and possess far more theological education than I. That said, your original article criticized Hemant Mehta directly. Yes, Rachel’s story is particularly relevant as the daughter of a prominent apologist. Why is that a problem? Strictly bearing in mind that his evangelical practices are what they are, the contrast makes this newsworthy- but her story is far from unique, as you rightly pointed out.

    “It was not critical thinking that sunk this faith. It was desire, as it so often is.” Your comment. Commenters on this blog have occasionally been more direct. You are advocating that there is no good and valid reason to leave the Christian church, save misunderstanding the text and a desire to have what the Bible says we can’t?

    If I step back from the implied criticism of Rachel, here- there are i believe valid reasons to leave the faith. Lots of them.

    Have a good day.

  • Ginny Bain Allen January 5, 2014, 5:18 am

    What you said JP, “Hopefully her family have come to accept her, for I’d bet she’s still the same daughter she always was. Regrettably, however, religious faith in some instances can have a divisive effect when family members hold differing views.”

    Actually, true believers in Jesus Christ always love and accept their misled family members, come what may. How can Rachael possibly still be the same as she always was when she has turned her back on her first love? Our 19 year old daughter isn’t the same as she was before she rejected Jesus. A once sweet, engaging, ambitious, serving, disciplined girl now wants to have next to nothing to do with her Christian family, except for us to keep her afloat financially, of course. We love her the same as ever we did, but if she were part of a Muslim family and had surrendered her allegiance to Jesus, she would be put to death!

  • JP January 5, 2014, 10:53 am

    Indeed, Ginny. Just in our town, I know a significant number of people who’ve, shall we say, left their faith and in some cases their families have turned on them- shunning isn’t uncommon, as a method of control. That’s frankly misguided and manipulative, to me.

    I certainly hope God/Jesus wasn’t her first love, that role is usually reserved for mother or parents.

    Interesting change in the dynamic, when I as the main breadwinner have left the flock. I still care for and support my family, my children, extended family. No change. I do insist however that my funds not disappear into the coffers of a faith that I do not support- other than that, things are unchanged. Why should my love for my family be any less? By the same token, if I were not in this position and a dependent 19 year old, why should my family care any less for me? Why would they abandon me to whatever my own life will reveal, just because of a difference in faith?

    Oh, there is one change- while we don’t generally discuss faith, if anyone chooses to proselytize, I feel free to challenge their claims. Very frankly, a faith truly held should withstand such a challenge. It behooves any believer to educate themselves in the tenets and beliefs of their faith, and in their own reasons for adhering to said faith, in my mind. If we can have a polite, respectful and constructive discussion about it, great. Usually we both learn something.

    Shunning however isn’t as severe as honor killing, or death because of apostasy or blasphemy. That still happens and is unconscionable. For those and other reasons I personally believe (as difficult as it can be) that any religious belief system needs to be challenged.

  • Glenn January 5, 2014, 11:27 am

    “You are advocating that there is no good and valid reason to leave the Christian church”

    JP, I think this is the case – But it is not at all what I have said here.

  • Ginny Bain Allen January 7, 2014, 4:42 am

    “Indeed, Ginny. Just in our town, I know a significant number of people who’ve, shall we say, left their faith and in some cases their families have turned on them- shunning isn’t uncommon, as a method of control. That’s frankly misguided and manipulative, to me.”

    It’s sad, JP, when Christian family members turn against one another. As you must realize, many who claim to be followers of Jesus simply are not. Perhaps shunning is appropriate at times, I’m not sure.

    “I certainly hope God/Jesus wasn’t her first love, that role is usually reserved for mother or parents.”

    Jesus is our first love, JP, for He is our top priority. All other relationships pale in comparison.

    “Interesting change in the dynamic, when I as the main breadwinner have left the flock. I still care for and support my family, my children, extended family. No change. I do insist however that my funds not disappear into the coffers of a faith that I do not support- other than that, things are unchanged. Why should my love for my family be any less? By the same token, if I were not in this position and a dependent 19 year old, why should my family care any less for me? Why would they abandon me to whatever my own life will reveal, just because of a difference in faith?”

    I never suggested our family should care any less for our rebellious, prodigal daughter/sister. Nor did I even hint at the possibility of abandoning her. It’s she who has abandoned us. She is bent on independence from her hated family, except where money is involved.

    “Oh, there is one change- while we don’t generally discuss faith, if anyone chooses to proselytize, I feel free to challenge their claims. Very frankly, a faith truly held should withstand such a challenge. It behooves any believer to educate themselves in the tenets and beliefs of their faith, and in their own reasons for adhering to said faith, in my mind. If we can have a polite, respectful and constructive discussion about it, great. Usually we both learn something.”

    Doubt will lead to one of two inevitable consequences for the follower of Christ, so the one doubting must proceed with caution and wisdom. Faithful doubt leads to a deeper embrace of the truth, with doubt serving to point one into a deeper knowledge, trust, and understanding of the truth which is Jesus. Pernicious doubt leads to unfaithfulness, unbelief, skepticism, cynicism, and despair. Christians who are struggling with doubt, need to seek help from the faithful, not the faithless, or they may find themselves off the narrow road, with Jesus in their rearview all over again.

    The British nineteenth-century poet Lord Tennyson made this point rather nicely in his poem The Ancient Sage:
    For nothing worthy proving can be proven,
    Nor yet disproven; wherefore thou be wise,
    Cleave ever to the sunnier side of doubt.

  • JP January 7, 2014, 10:39 am

    Ginny, interesting, and thanks- but how do you ascertain where to find the faithful as opposed to the faithless? Shunning and condescension (and yes, judgement even though we aren’t empowered to judge others) are fairly common, among believers and the self-described faithful- each advocating their own version of the Truth. All too common, in fact- some of the more famous apologists are reprehensible.

    I turned to an old and dear friend- the priest who baptized my children. And another priest, who was in charge of canon law for the diocese. Both were immense help, as was reading the Bible- cover to cover- and really looking at it as objectively as I could.

    Your Tennyson quote is apt- I started looking for evidence. I found some excellent works, including “The History of God” by Armstrong. Both my friends supported me and continue to be my friends. One has left the calling since then.

    In my case, I am thrilled with the results of my doubt. To clarify, I treat others with respect, as I would have them treat me. I value life, charity, health, happiness, family. I’ve taken a lesser job to allow my wife to pursue her calling, even though it makes no money. I love and take pride in the achievements of my children. And I am an atheist.

    My father passed away last summer and if anything, atheism was a comfort to me. Knowing that his suffering was at an end, and appreciating his life and all he did for us, wasn’t bittersweet- I understand that we get this one life and it therefore should be treasured.

    I don’t need to support any faith who chooses to ostracize or shun people, who chooses to persist in misogyny, homophobia, shaming and guilt, who uses bronze age texts to manipulate people. Yes, those are the negative aspects of organized religion yet they’re all too common. We, collectively don’t need it. And, believe it or not, I’m happy.

  • Ginny Bain Allen January 8, 2014, 10:10 am

    “Ginny, interesting, and thanks- but how do you ascertain where to find the faithful as opposed to the faithless? Shunning and condescension (and yes, judgement even though we aren’t empowered to judge others) are fairly common, among believers and the self-described faithful- each advocating their own version of the Truth. All too common, in fact- some of the more famous apologists are reprehensible.”

    “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” ~Jesus

    Ah, judgment. That tricky topic that gets everyone so cranky. Who says we’re not empowered to judge others, JP? Who? If we’re not empowered to judge others, why does a law breaker get into trouble with law enforcement? You’re telling me that when Hitler was in the business of slaughtering millions of innocent people, the rest of the world was not empowered to judge him for those atrocities? What about Adam Lanza on his evil, murderous rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary or Kermit Gosnell’s lengthy, unhindered killing streak in Philadelphia? How dangerous, irresponsible and impossible it is for us not to judge! Talk about reprehensible! We make necessary judgments every day, JP. If your child whips a classmate with a belt, or steals apples from an orchard, or slashes a classmate’s new winter jacket with a knife, are you telling me that you will not reprimand him/her? Are you telling me that you, as an atheist who does not believe in God’s Holy Word, either written or in the flesh, freely uses one particularly over-used, and taken out of context, Bible verse to deliver, what you think is, your knockout punch, with the intention of shushing all judging. Manipulation much? The truth is – truth is a person. Jesus is the Truth. and He did not say we are not to judge. He simply cautioned us that before we do judge, we are to do it with the right heart attitude, and to make a righteous judgment. When folks tell me to remove the beam from my own eye before I seek to remove a speck from theirs, are they not judging me? They are judging me for some supposed beam in my eye. And if, at the same time, they are not willing to tell me what the beam is, that is NOT love, is it, JP? If someone is aware of something that would help me be a better person and refuses to tell me, that is NOT love. None of us is fine the way we are!

    “I turned to an old and dear friend- the priest who baptized my children. And another priest, who was in charge of canon law for the diocese. Both were immense help, as was reading the Bible- cover to cover- and really looking at it as objectively as I could.”

    Being canon-minded, instead of open-minded, or closed-minded or narrow-minded, is what we are called to be.

    “In my case, I am thrilled with the results of my doubt. To clarify, I treat others with respect, as I would have them treat me. I value life, charity, wealth, happiness, family. I’ve taken a lesser job to allow my wife to pursue her calling, even though it makes no money. I love and take pride in the achievements of my children. And I am an atheist.”

    You say you value life, JP, but do you truly value all life? Do you value the unborn, at all stages of development, even those who may be deemed by society as less-than?

    “I don’t need to support any faith who chooses to ostracize or shun people, who chooses to persist in misogyny, homophobia, shaming and guilt, who uses bronze age texts to manipulate people. Yes, those are the negative aspects of organized religion yet they’re all too common. We, collectively don’t need it. And, believe it or not, I’m happy.”

    JP, we are not in this life to be happy. We are in it to be made holy. Our purpose is to know God and to make Him known. Those who are true believers are in relationship with Jesus.

  • JP January 8, 2014, 12:21 pm

    Wow, did I hit a sensitive spot?

    My understanding of Jesus’ statement about judging is “judge not lest ye be judged”, similar to the parable about casting the first stone- which, I understand does not appear in early texts of John, first popping up in a late 4th century text.

    I actually meant something completely different, Ginny. Of course, laws of society and civilization are to be followed, enforced and observed. I do NOT believe that enforcing one’s beliefs on another, however, is love. It’s controlling and manipulating.

    My judgement comment is a guide, a reminder for me against any assumption of rights over others. I am no better than anyone else, we are equals in most things. My rights do not supersede yours, nor yours mine. On the other hand, your criticism of a different belief system opens the door to questions in return. For instance, what evidence is there of your Truth? Why is belief in Christianity any different or any better than any other belief, and so on… What evidence have you that your faith is better than any other?

    Truth is science, evidence, reason. Not a bronze age text modified and altered through the ages, interpreted today as if the things described (decades after the fact and not by witnesses, might I add).

  • Glenn January 8, 2014, 6:09 pm

    Just a couple of comments…

    “Wow, did I hit a sensitive spot?” This is the sort of thing that the blog policy means by passive aggressive rudeness. Hardly necessary. If this had been left out, how much more conversational and polite the comment would have been. (Also, what’s your name?)

    “Truth is science, evidence, reason. Not a bronze age text modified and altered through the ages, interpreted today as if the things described (decades after the fact and not by witnesses, might I add).”

    Science, evidence and reason are not “truth.” This doesn’t actually make sense. Science, evidence and reason are tools to help us figure out the truth.

    The rest of this is simply caricature. Some of it is not important caricature. For example you’re talking about the bronze age, which ended in the second millennium BCE, but you’re referring to events that happened in the first century AD (CE if you prefer), the middle of the iron age. It may seem trivial to you, but when somebody starts using some fairly confident rhetoric about history when it’s clear that the entire field of history is foreign to them, you’ll pardon others, I hope, if they don’t take your confidence all that seriously.

    As for the fact that Gospels were written down decades after the fact (I assume you’re talking about the Gospels, given your reference to decades), that’s pretty stellar in historical terms. Our knowledge of much of the life of Julius Caesar is based on things written down centuries after the fact. Decades is nothing in a strongly oral culture.

    As for your reference to eyewitnesses: Very little of history was written down, by hand, by the eyewitnesses themselves. But in the first place, the authors had access to eyewitnesses, and secondly you appear not to have looked seriously at the evidence that the eyewitnesses were indeed involved in writing the Gospels.

    In case it’s likely that you’ll look into that question yourself (since you were quite happy to speak with some confidence about it), may I suggest the excellent scholarly work by Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.

  • Ginny Bain Allen January 9, 2014, 3:13 am

    For JP

    “Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the Truth, we cannot know it.” ― Blaise Pascal

  • Jennifer February 7, 2014, 12:26 pm

    Beautifully written, thoroughly addressed. Well done!

  • Talitha November 20, 2014, 11:10 pm

    Her story is similar to mine and I appreciate her sharing. I don’t see how The Friendy Atheist posting the story is exploitation.

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